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From http://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/swapspread.asp

Swap spread is the difference between the negotiated and fixed rate of a swap.

Should "rate" be plural "rates"?

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Latter part of sentence seems equivalent to "the negotiated rate and the fixed rate...", where singular is correct – jwpat7 Nov 5 '11 at 16:47
Is using plural here right or wrong? By using plural, I mean "between the negotiated and fixed rates". – Tim Nov 5 '11 at 17:13
Singular is correct, plural is wrong (with provisos per Hellion). By equivalent I meant the phrases are the same except for differences due to ellipsis. – jwpat7 Nov 5 '11 at 20:10

It's acceptable as-is, I believe, because one rate is being compared to one other rate. (If a swap had multiple negotiated rates, or multiple fixed rates, then a plural 'rates' would be appropriate.) However, it is awkward because it does invite that sort of pluralization confusion. It would be better reworded to something like

Swap spread is the difference between a swap's negotiated rate and its fixed rate.

or, as jwpat7 suggests,

Swap spread is the difference between the negotiated rate and the fixed rate of a swap.

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You could also say "the negotiated and the fixed rate of a swap." You can get all the benefit of repeating all the words just by repeating the article. – Peter Shor Nov 5 '11 at 18:53

I agree with @jwpat7 said, that it would be most clear to repeat the word rate:

Swap spread is the difference between the negotiated rate and the fixed rate of a swap.

But to answer the original question, I believe that the plural rates would be correct.

Take a parallel example:

He is standing between the old person and young person.

Here you are talking about two people, and to use person just doesn't sound right.

He is standing between the old and young people. (correct)

He is standing between the old and young person. (strange)

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I disagree that "between the old and young people" is correct if you are talking about one old person and one young person. As pointed out in other comments, repeating the article removes the plural confusion issue: "between the old and the young person", or even "between the old person and the young one." – Hellion Nov 5 '11 at 20:23
@Lynn But are the examples parallel? One may quibble that where the rate example is unambiguous and something one might say or write, that is not so for either of the person examples (one would say "He is standing between two people" or could say "He is standing between the youngest and the oldest persons"), and the people example is what one would say of a person between a group of old people and another of young, so has a different meaning. – jwpat7 Nov 5 '11 at 20:32
@Hellion and jwpat7: I agree that the plural form is not great for exactly the reasons you stated. That's why I said at the start that it would be better to repeat the noun. My example was merely pointing out why I believe that the singular (rate/person) is inferior. I don't know of a grammatical rule that says definitively which is the "correct" answer. – Lynn Nov 6 '11 at 0:04

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