In order to take the desired measurement a caliper must be properly applied against the part . For example, when measuring the thickness of a plate a vernier caliper must be held at right angles to the piece. Some practice may be needed to measure round or irregular objects correctly.
Accuracy of measurement when using a caliper is highly dependent on the skill of the operator. Regardless of type, a caliper's jaws must be forced into contact with the part being measured. As both part and caliper are always to some extent elastic, the amount of force used affects the indication. A consistent, firm touch is correct. Too much force results in an underindication as part and tool distort; too little force gives insufficient contact and an overindication. This is a greater problem with a caliper incorporating a wheel, which lends mechanical advantage. This is especially the case with digital calipers, calipers out of adjustment, or calipers with a poor quality beam.
Simple calipers are uncalibrated; the measurement taken must be compared against a scale. Whether the scale is part of the caliper or not, all analog calipers -- verniers and dials -- require good eyesight in order to achieve the highest precision. Digital calipers have the advantage in this area.
Calibrated calipers may be mishandled, leading to loss of zero. When a calipers' jaws are fully closed, it should of course indicate zero. If it does not, it must be recalibrated or repaired. It might seem that a vernier caliper cannot get out of calibration but a drop or knock can be enough. Digital calipers have zero set buttons.
In later years (maybe since the 1990s) a clever modification of the moveable jaw on the back side of any caliper allows for "step"-measurements. For example: the distance from the side of a screw head to the edge of a surface.