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It'd be normal to hear sentences like these:

The mean ticket price for the concert was $56.50.

The median ticket price for the concert was $61.

But what about:

The mode ticket price for the concert was $40.

Is this an acceptable way to use the word "mode?" I would typically expect to hear, "The mode of ticket prices for the concert was $40," but the former arrangement is nice because it's more concise.

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"The most common ticket price for the concert was $40." –  Peter Shor May 24 at 17:31
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The average ticket price was..., mean, mode and median are statistical terms! –  Josh61 May 24 at 17:32
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@Josh61: when you say "the average ticket price", nobody will understand you to mean "the mode". –  Peter Shor May 24 at 17:37
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The most common ticket price is not the the mean or the median .. I think OP needs to rephrase the question. –  Josh61 May 24 at 17:40
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@Josh61: I'm confused. The question doesn't even come close to implying that the most common ticket price is the mean or median. The question hasn't been edited, so you're not responding to a prior version. What's going on? –  Marthaª May 24 at 18:16

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The question can be restated as "Can mode be used as an adjective?" for which one just needs to look in a dictionary.

OED lists mode as a noun and a verb, but not an adjective.

However, there is an adjective modal, for which OED gives

6. a. Statistics. Of, relating to, or of the nature of a mode; (of a value, etc.) that occurs most frequently in a particular sample or population. Cf. mode n. 13.

and there is a citation which exactly mirrors your example, although it appears the BBC thought it necessary to explain the word:

1968 Listener 25 July 101/1 The administrators we saw..had averaged only 2·8 years in all their completed jobs in the class; in fact, the modal (most frequently occurring) period in completed jobs was two years.

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Nicely reduced and resolved. Accepted for explaining the crux of the issue: “mode” is not an adjective. –  duozmo May 25 at 17:55

Neither mean, median, nor mode are likely to occur in casual conversation or writing. They are statistical terms, and would really only be used in a technical context. What you'd actually find in "regular" writing would be statements such as:

The average ticket price was $56.50.

(In nontechnical usage, mean has too many other, well, meanings, so "average" is used instead.)

The middle of the range of ticket prices was $61.

(This one is debatable: people do use median in nontechnical contexts, but you can never tell whether they're using it correctly, or whether they're using it as a synonym of average.)

The most common ticket price was $40.

(While it's true that mode has the adjectival form modal, almost nobody would know what you mean by "modal ticket price". Heck, I have a degree in math, and if I encountered that in a magazine or blog, I wouldn't know what it meant. In those rare cases when you need to talk about the mode, you're much better off describing the meaning in nontechnical terms, such as the "most common" phrasing I used above, or if you want to be slightly more accurate, something like "most frequently occurring".)

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I'd already upvoted @Andrew's answer, but this is much better. As someone who doesn't have a degree in maths, I'm not too bothered about the difference between mean, median, modal values. In practice I'd probably just understand them all as "Pseud's word for average" anyway. –  FumbleFingers May 24 at 18:28
    
@FF I'll annoy you with 'midmark' then. –  Edwin Ashworth May 24 at 20:09
    
I am a statistician. This is the correct answer, in every way. Mean, median and mode are used to describe probability and/ or frequency distributions. It would be absurd to use the terms conversationally, for a general audience, –  Feral Oink May 25 at 9:20
    
If someone was using mean, mode, modal or median in a casual conversation I would probably be asking from which institution had he escaped. –  Tonny May 25 at 15:20
    
Great usage notes. To me, invoking "mode" implies you've crunched the numbers, whereas "most common" is looser and hence less informative ("we most commonly play in bars"). "Most common" can also unintentionally convey "majority" ("bands most commonly arrive by bus"). Your general point — find another way to phrase the concept — seems wise. I for one wish "mode" were part of our vernacular, since it's unambiguous, distinct, and useful. –  duozmo May 25 at 17:54

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