Is there a word that could be used in an instance where you want to indicate that a lower number is better than a positive number?

For instance, In golf, scores are _______. to indicate that a low score is a positive thing.

  • I'm not sure English even has a word for "higher is better"; perhaps the best we can do is a word which sets "lower is better" in opposition to the prevailing expectation that "higher is better": "scoring is backwards", perhaps? Alternatively, maybe take cues from sorting terminology, e.g. "descending scoring"?
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 8, 2014 at 17:57
  • scores are optimized to the minimum value.
    – SrJoven
    Sep 8, 2014 at 18:04
  • decreasingly increasing?
    – ermanen
    Sep 8, 2014 at 18:08

3 Answers 3


The phrase "inverted score" seems to be used (albeit not very widely). So you could say "In golf, scores are inverted" (or "scoring is inverted").

A couple examples:

  • I like that. Can you link/cite some of the places where you've seen "inverted score" used?
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 8, 2014 at 18:02
  • @DanBron: A google search for "inverted score" shows an official explanation of triathlon scoring and some research articles which used a 1-10 scoring system on a poll, where a high value was deleterious on some questions.
    – Ben Voigt
    Sep 8, 2014 at 18:06
  • +1 If you linked to an example, it would improve the answer.
    – bib
    Sep 8, 2014 at 18:09
  • Cool. Can you link to those research articles (or whatever) directly in your answer?
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 8, 2014 at 18:09
  • @BenVoigt: just click through the links and copy the resulting URL from your address bar.
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 8, 2014 at 18:14

Seems to me the concept of inverse proportionality (IP) needs to be part of an answer to your question.

At its simplest (which is what I'm comfortable with), inverse proportionality is the phenomenon in which one variable goes up in value while another related variable goes down.

If, for instance, you are a cold-weather lover, your enjoyment level is at its highest when the temperature is at its lowest. The two variables are in inverse proportion to one another. Notice how the IP thing doesn't work with the hot-weather lover, because their enjoyment level goes down as the temp goes down, and up when the temp goes up. I guess one of the terms or phrases for the latter is in direct proportion. (Mathematicians, feel free to correct me!)

In golf, as the numeric value of your score goes up, your perceived competence level as a golfer goes down (unless you are really trying to let someone beat you!), so the two variables (viz., competence and score) are in inverse proportion to each other.

An amusing way of looking at the IP phenomenon is as follows:

The chances of a buttered slice of bread falling onto the carpet, butter-side down, is in inverse proportion to the value of the carpet.

  • Cats always land on their feet. What happens if you tape buttered toast to a cat's back and drop it on a priceless carpet?
    – Eric J.
    Sep 8, 2014 at 22:13
  • @EricJ.: The cat would be so preoccupied with getting that thing off its back, it would likely forget to land on its feet. That's when the butter hits the fan, so to speak. By the way, I don't think the cat would allow you to eat your buttered toast while it's taped to its back, although it's worth a try, I guess. Don Sep 9, 2014 at 3:00

While I agree that the concept is referring to @rhetorician's answer, inverse proportionality is usually used in mathematical contexts and sounds strange to me otherwise, because then you have to say something like "winning/happiness/success/...? is inversely proportional to your score".

Really I would just restructure the sentence: "lower scores are better in golf". In the amount of reading I have done in the health space, where cholesterol and blood pressure are spoken of in the same fashion, I've never seen a synonym for this phrase.

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