When I am writing a book and referring to something that lasts 2-8 days, do I say "2-8 days" or "two to eight days"? Also, when referring to how much of something I would use, would I say "2-4 tablespoons" or "two to four tablespoons"?

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    In general, you can do it however you want as long as you are consistent about it. If you're writing for a particular publisher, get the style guide they use and follow that.
    – Hellion
    Sep 4, 2014 at 21:32
  • You can't say "2-8" at all vocally. It is said as "two to eight" or "two through eight".
    – Oldcat
    Sep 4, 2014 at 22:19
  • You should separate numeric ranges using an en dash instead of a hyphen-minus, so 2–8 not 2-8. Sometimes it is better to space the operands: Safe when stored at −10° – +40° C.
    – tchrist
    Sep 5, 2014 at 4:41
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  • 1
    @Mari-LouA I’m sorry that Microsoft expects you to remember such a long and complicated, and unmnemonic, a keystroke sequence. On a Mac, you use the ALT key like a shifter and hit the regular - character for an en dash (), and both ALT and SHIFT with the regular - for the longer em dash ().
    – tchrist
    Sep 5, 2014 at 12:12

2 Answers 2


Both are valid, but imho the numerical format is more succinct and stands out from the surrounding text.

Consider this sentence:

During my holiday trip, I will spend just 1-2 nights in London followed by 10-15 days touring the rest of Europe, and return by 28th or 29th.

Or some (made up) recipe:

  • 1-2 finely chopped onions

  • 3-5 tsp flour

  • Few pinches of salt

In both these, I think writing out the numbers in long hand will make it excessively verbose.

As a counterexample, consider the lumber size 'two by four' , representing it as '2 x 4' may take a bit of processing for people who parse 'x' symbol as 'into/multiplied by'. However, when a smaller number is followed by a larger number and separated by '-', it's common to read the symbol as 'to' (unless it's in a mathematical sense).

  • +1 for using the word "succinct"! Off-topic, but a good example for consonant clusters. (:
    – Neeku
    Sep 4, 2014 at 22:22
  • @Neeku Thanks, that formatting looks much better. Also, oops on the 'its' mistake :P
    – Alok
    Sep 4, 2014 at 23:37

Both convey the same meaning but the fully written form "two to eight days"/"two to four tablespoons" doesn't leave place to any effort of interpretation: It explains what the dash would stand for.

  • This might try to answer the question, but it only expresses a personal opinion without providing any reference.
    – Neeku
    Sep 4, 2014 at 22:00
  • Also, I didn't downvote!
    – Neeku
    Sep 4, 2014 at 22:03
  • @Neeku I tried to expand some more
    – Mina
    Sep 5, 2014 at 6:54
  • This still shows your own personal opinion. Formatting your own opinion as quotation, doesn't really improve the quality of your answer at all.
    – Neeku
    Sep 5, 2014 at 9:08
  • @Neeku Tried to remove myself from the equation
    – Mina
    Sep 5, 2014 at 20:25

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