14 October 2014

Order, qualifiers (same type, comma separated)

A quote from Defense Industry Daily of 12 October (my bold):
A $27.7 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-incentive, cost-plus-fixed fee contract for 7 GQM-163A Coyote SSST base vehicles, including the associated hardware, kits and production support for the U.S. Navy (3 / $13.7M / 50%) and the government of Japan (4 / $14.0M / 50%). All funds are committed immediately.
I wonder what the rule might be to determine the order of the three qualifiers in bold?

Later (17 November):

I have now found time to review what some of my grammars have to say on this and related issues.
In Practical English Usage, under 'commas' (ref. 14.5, p9) (2nd ed.), Michael Swan writes:
"Before nouns, we generally use commas between adjectives (especially in long sequences) which give similar kinds of information, for example in physical descriptions.
            a lovely, long, cool, refreshing drink
            an expensive, ill-planned, wasteful project

I suggest that this can be extrapolated to cover complex qualifiers like those under discussion.
If this is correct, then the DID writers were definitely right to include the commas.
Given that the qualifiers 'firm-fixed-price', 'fixed-price-incentive' and 'cost-plus-fixed fee' are all of exactly the same nature, I further suggest that the order in which they are presented is of no consequence whatsoever.

Concerning the multiple designators 'GQM-163A', 'Coyote' and 'SSST':
'GQM-163A Coyote' is the name of the system (see here)
and SSST (for Supersonic Sea Skimming Target) the type
here mounted on a vheicle called a 'base vehicle'.


  1. I don't think you can attempt to answer this without knowing the field. The "rule" might turn out to be arbitrary. But the order of qualifiers is a more general problem. Should I write "There are no well-paid Canadian jobs" or "There are no Canadian well-paid jobs"? I suggest it's a matter of distinctiveness. The qualifier that comes first is the more distinctive and therefore the more important. "There are no CANADIAN well-paid jobs" versus "There are no WELL-PAID Canadian jobs."

  2. Thanks for your comment Brian. Distinctiveness or something similar may an important parameter in some contexts, but the part I'm really interested in is the ordering that is intuitive (or almost) to first-language speakers but more problematic for others. Look at what I and others have written on OSASCOMP. IMHO, there's definitely food for thought there. I plan to come back to the topic quite soon.


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