I know that the symbol "-" can be read as hyphen or dash. While I am reading aloud "Figure 8-1" or "Section 8-1", what is the correct name for "-"?

Sometimes, I heard people read it as

  • figure eight dash one
  • figure eight point one

but those both sound strange to me.

  • Although the function of the symbol is really that of a hyphen in this usage, it is read as dash (or, as Barrie answers, often omitted). It is a device well known to rail fans in America, where the Dash 7, Dash 8 and Dash 9 series of GE diesel-electric locomotives (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GE_Dash_9-44CW ) were denied more prestigious names. Rail fans soon got used to the strange nicknames, which sounded rather - er - dashing. One assumes that reading the hyphens as hyphen would sound ultra-strange. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 23 '12 at 7:45
  • In the movie Brazil we hear a pronunciation like 'eight stroke one' ... I assumed that was a British way of saying it, but have no further evidence. – GEdgar Dec 23 '12 at 13:37
  • @EdwinAshworth What do you mean it functions as a hyphen? It does not: it functions as a dash, separating two unlike things, not like a hyphen to join them. – tchrist Dec 23 '12 at 14:02
  • I'd read this as either "Figure eight one," or "Figure eight dash one." I can't say with 100% certainty, but I believe anyone who reads "8-1" as "eight point one" would only do so because they're already familiar with similar publications that use the "8.1" format. In other words, "Eight point one" is a ‘holdover’ that's technically incorrect for "8-1", although only a pedant would bother to interrupt with a correction, because it's rather obvious what is meant. – J.R. Dec 23 '12 at 16:08
  • @tchrist: it functions as a hyphen in that it combines two sub-classifications into a binomial. This is reminiscent of double-barrelled names, but if you wish to argue that 8 is higher hierarchically than 1 in 8-1 here (and I would agree), one could compare dog-fox which is a type of fox, not dog, fox thus being the head. Things are often like in some aspects and unlike in others. Here, 8 and 1 are being used primarily as identifiers. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 24 '12 at 21:49

Unless there is any risk of ambiguity in the particular context, it seems enough to me to say section eight one.

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