# Scale Bars, Inset Maps and Ratio Text in Cartography

There are several ways to help readers understand the distance and map scale.

Maps are generally **never on the same scale as the real world**. This is why cartographers use scale bars that compare a map distance to an actual distance.

Not only do scale bars, ratio scales, and stated scales also show size and distance in a way that people understand, but **inset maps** help understand map scale.

Similar to other cartographic elements used in maps, here are all the ways cartographers represent map scale in their work.

### Representative Text / Ratio Scale

Ratio scales are one of the most common ways to depict scale on maps. It tells the map reader that one unit on the map is equal to a certain number of units in the real world.

Example: **1:2500**

For example, 1:2500 means that 1 cm = 2500 cm. Because 2,500 cm is difficult to interpret, we can convert it into an understandable unit.

In this case, there are 100 centimeters in a meter. When we convert centimeters to meters, 1 cm on the map is equal to 25 meters in real life. When you change scales, it makes more sense to understand distance.

**Learn more about map scale:**

### Stated Scale

Stated scales tie in well with ratio scales. But the key difference is how you start with a ratio and convert the units to a more understandable format for the map reader.

Example: **1 cm = 25 m**

Instead of 1:2500, you would give the desirable stated scale format. In this case, 1 cm = 25 m, meaning 1 centimeter on the map is 25 meters in real life.

Stated scales are a **textual way** to show how much distance of represented for a unit. Its main advantage is that you can bring out a ruler and find distances with ease.

### Inset Maps / Locator Maps

Finally, inset maps are a completely visual way to show map scale by including surroundings. For those who know the area, this is extremely handy to get your bearings immediately.

Locator maps are often smaller-scale maps with an **extent rectangle**. The main focus of the map is a zoomed-in, larger-scale map of that extent rectangle.

For example, a locator map of the globe is very small-scale at 1:360,000,000,000. If there is an extent rectangle of Vatican City, this larger scale gives more detail and is the main map’s focus.

### Scale Bar / Linear Scale

Scale bars come in different sizes, shapes, and forms. They always have a unit of distance, such as feet, meters, or miles that is proportional to the map.

The distance that’s in the scale bar represents a relationship between distance on a map and in the real world. It’s arbitrary for the cartographer to select that specific linear distance in a scale bar.

For example, this scale bars units are in kilometers. Each tick graphically shows a kilometer that you can put your fingers to find its rough distance.

## Types of Map Scale in Geography

There are several ways to depict scale and represent distances on maps.

While ratio scales (separated by a colon) have the same units, stated scales (separated by an equal sign) do the conversion previously so it’s easily understandable.

A scale bar graphically represents the relationship between the map and the real world.

Finally, inset maps are extent maps that tie the map’s focus with a smaller scale one.