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I'm not even sure how to phrase the question properly, so let me paint a scenario. In addition to your answers, any suggestions for how I could have better asked the question would be appreciated. In a nutshell my question is "how does one properly use the word 'by' for nested descriptions?"

I'm just some guy who works for some company. At this company, our software peeps make these neat reports for our business peeps.

For example, we might have a report called "Sales by Day" that looks like:

Sales by Day Report
--------------------
Monday.......$100.00
Tuesday......$200.00
Wednesday....$450.00
Thursday.....$250.00
Friday.......$120.00

Another report may be Sales by Store (for all time), which looks like:

Sales by Store Report
----------------------------
San Diego.........$10,000.00
Boston............$30,000.00
Salt Lake City....$25,000.00
Gotham............$45,000.00

Now, if want to show a breakdown per store mixed with per day, as in the following example, which title would be correct and why?

Sales By Store By Day or Sales By Day By Store
----------------------------------------------
San Diego
    Monday......$20.00
    Tuesday.....$25.00
Boston
    Monday......$35.00
    Tuesday.....$45.00
etc....

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Just to clarify: you're asking whether you work from the inside out, or from the outside in - correct? –  MT_Head Aug 10 '12 at 19:35
    
I'd do the first, but I'm not sure. –  American Luke Aug 10 '12 at 19:36
    
@MT_Head yes, that's correct. I know what I think is right, but it's been a source of discussion lately. –  Dave Kennedy Aug 10 '12 at 19:37
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5 Answers 5

First, offset the "levels" with commas or parentheses:

Sales by Store (by Day)

or

Sales by Store, by Day

If you are asking about the order, I think the correct order would be innermost to outermost grouping, but I cannot cite any authority for that, just experience.

Sales by Day, by Store

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Yes, in terms of order, "sales by day by store" is correct for this example. For each store, you are showing their "sales by day". Then, instead of just showing "sales by day" for a single store, you're showing "sales by day" for every store, one after the other. So this is "sales by day by store". Also, an alternative suggestion would be "sales by store and day". –  user16269 Aug 10 '12 at 22:44
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Looking at your two single-level examples (Sales by Day and Sales by Store), the Sales (numbers) appear on the right side, and the ordering qualifier appears to the left. So for consistency, I think I would continue that trend.

In your final example, sales are furthest to the right, then days, then stores - so I would title the report Sales by Day, by Store.

In all fairness, however, I could probably convince myself the other way too. As long as the labels of the qualifiers are clear, I don't think the title will lead to any confusion.

(edited to take @JeffSahol's excellent suggestion of offsetting by commas)

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I would replace one of your by with per:

Sales by Day per Store

Sales per Day by Store

In this context by and per are effectively synonymous, so you can use either variant. However, for consistency's sake you should probably use per consistently in one half of the formula or the other, so that you always say (for example) Sales Per Day, whether or not the store breakdown is given.

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I was just typing that same thing. FWIW, though, I think Sales per Day by Store seems much better than the other one, based on how the report is organized. –  J.R. Aug 10 '12 at 20:02
    
That's a great suggestion, and one which I think I'll start using. I agree, I like Sales perDay by Store better. However, if I, for whatever unholy reason, insisted on using by twice, what would Sales by Day by Store mean? What's the correct interpretation of that? –  Dave Kennedy Aug 10 '12 at 21:36
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Since the way you've grouped the data

It should say

Sales by Store by Day

or even better

Daily Sales by Store

Hope that helps!!!

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I take these results are from an SQL query. You don't get to choose which way it is written, as it has to follow the sequence of grouping in the SQL query. The grouping by sales then by day gives different results than grouping first by day then by sales.

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