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If I said "a total of 100 quality engineers and inspectors," does this imply the number of engineers and inspectors add up to 100? If not, how would I phrase the sentence to mean the number of engineers and inspectors add up to 100.

  • Unless otherwise stated to the contrary, it means "the number of engineers and inspectors add up to 100." – Kris May 23 '14 at 8:14
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You could easily say:

A total of 100 people, comprising of proficient engineers and sharp inspectors, were chosen for the voyage.

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  • Except I would not use 'of' with a present participle. It is either 'comprised of', or 'comprising'. No need for the 'of' in your example. – WS2 May 23 '14 at 8:08
  • Good of you to point that out. salutes @WS2 – Calypto May 23 '14 at 8:21
  • @WS2 ... or 'consisting of'. – Edwin Ashworth May 23 '14 at 8:37
  • @EdwinAshworth Good point! – WS2 May 23 '14 at 9:13
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Yes, it implies a total of both engineers and inspectors combined.

To be more clear, you can use the answer by Calypto above.

"A total of 100 people, comprising of proficient engineers and sharp inspectors, were chosen for the voyage."

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To remove any uncertainty, the word combined could be added, as in "A total of 100 quality engineers and inspectors combined," or "A combined total of 100 quality engineers and inspectors."

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The meaning of "a total of 100 quality engineers and inspectors" is dependent on the context. For instance:

A total of 100 quality engineers and inspectors attended the third conference of the Heating and Ventilation Quality Engineers and Inspectors in Houston.

(There were 100 of them in all.) But:

A total of 100 quality engineers and inspectors defeated the chairwoman's motion to extend the duration of the HVQEI conference with a comfortable margin of 43 votes.

(Potentially, there were at least 157 of them -- maybe more, if some abstained from voting.)

Your query text, "a total of 100 quality engineers and inspectors", is a phrase, not a complete sentence. Your desire to ensure a wording that means what you want it to mean cannot be fulfilled until you set the phrase in a complete thought/sentence.

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  • A total remains a total of 100 in both of your examples. A total of 100 attended, a total of 100 defeated. I fail to see the difference. – anongoodnurse May 23 '14 at 20:56

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