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Learning to Use Metric Measures


Standardization with the rest of the world is one advantage of the metric system. But ease of use, once you get comfortable with the system, is what will make the transition more palatable for most of us. One of the advantages of the metric system is that you don't have to deal with fractions of inches. A standard letter size piece of paper (U.S. and Canada) is approximately 216 mm. Wouldn't it be easier to divide a 216 mm piece of paper into 3 equal columns than to divide 8.5 inches into thirds? And we won't even consider margins and gutters at this point. Try it:

216 / 3 = 72 mm while 8.5 / 3 = 2.8333 inches… find that on your ruler.

It won't happen overnight for most of us, but try these exercises for a few weeks:

  1. Even when using standard U.S. paper sizes, think of them in their metric equivalencies such as 216 mm x 279 mm for "letter size" 8.5 x 11 (mm are approximate). Then, set your software to use millimeters for measurements. Try setting margins, gutters, and guidelines using millimeters instead of inches and fractions of inches. It's a first step to going metric.

  2. If you don't already have one, get a ruler that includes metric measurements (many standard 1 foot rulers have centimeters and millimeters on one side) and use the metric side to measure the dimensions of books on your bookshelf, junk mail, envelopes, the height of your desk, and even the length of your fingers and feet. Develop your own visual references for metric measures.

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Intermediate Tasks > Measurement Systems > Metric for Non-Metric Users | Exercises

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