How to Explain Measurements

Illustration of person explaining a common measurement.

As we’ve discussed before, people struggle with numbers. Today, we’re talking about how to explain common measurements — or, in other words, “How much stuff is that?”

It’s hard to visualize common measurements like an ounce, an inch, a cup — or a ton. An easy solution to this problem is to make comparisons to everyday objects.

For example:

  • A serving of meat is 3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards).
  • The cleanup program removed 500 tons of dirt from the area around the chemical spill — that’s 50 dump truck loads!

Here are a few other comparisons that we’ve found helpful:

  • 2/3 cup = a doorknob
  • 1/4 inch = a pencil eraser
  • 1 inch = the widest part of a quarter
  • 3 inches = the long side of a credit card
  • 6 inches = the long side of a dollar bill
  • 1 ton = a Toyota Yaris hatchback

Your equivalents may not always be exact measurements, but that’s okay. The idea is to give people a general sense of “how much.”

The bottom line: When writing about amounts, sizes, or weights, help out your readers by making comparisons to everyday objects.


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