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I'm currently reading an article titled "Workers anxiety in a 'gig economy'" by Noam Scheiber from International New York Times. I came across the paragraph below:

Last year, 23 percent of Americans told Gallup they worried that their working hours would be cut back, up from percentages in the low to midteens in the years leading up to the recession. Twenty-four percent said they worried that their wages would be reduced, up from the mid-to high teens before the recession.

I think it's saying people are worried that their working hours would be cut back by, say, 12 to 15 percent and their wages by 15 to 18 percent.

Then, I noticed that the the first part doesn't have a hyphen after low, and "midteens" is a one word. But the second part has a hyphen after "mid" and "high teens" are written as two words.

Can anyone explain why there is this difference and if it makes any difference in meaning, if there is?

Also, I am not very familiar with "up from" in this way of usage. It would be also nice if someone can help me with this particular phrasing.

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    If you don't understand this, it's not entirely your fault. This is some pretty bad writing, and the - is not the only problem with it. For example, twenty-four should be 24. The writer in question is inconsistent and not too adept at placing parentheses. Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 1:55
  • What @Jake said. Is ELU really interested in discussing fine distinctions in the context of a writer who can't remember between two sentences whether he's going to use digits or words to represents 23 or twenty-four percent? And as for usages such as up from - that's what dictionaries (and ESL coursebooks) are for. Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 2:39
  • Both Chicago and AP style insist that any number starting a sentence be spelled out (AP makes an exception for years); otherwise, AP calls for numerals for values greater than nine (other style guides say nineteen, or ninety-nine). This is a red herring that has nothing to do with the question and implies nothing about the writer's competence.
    – choster
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 15:24
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    @JakeRegier All I'm saying is that your example is invalid. If you want to point out other editorial flaws, be my guest.
    – choster
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 16:39
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    @JakeRegier I think the question concerns the ambiguous nature of "mid". Is it an independent word or is it a combining form? Are the uses of "low", "mid" and "high" in these contexts parallel or sylleptic? I agree it would be sensible to decide one way or another and stick to it, but we are not necessarily privy to the internal stylebook at NYTimes for this kind of issue, so this might just be an error of inconsistency, or it might be an odd artifact of a strict rule in the stylebook which did not take this case into consideration.
    – nohat
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 0:14

2 Answers 2

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I think the "low to midteens" is not talking about the number of working hours, but it's talking about the percentage of Americans who are worried is up to 23% from the low- to mid-teens (which is how I would punctuate that phrase) of percentage of Americans.

I think the use of "mid-teens" vs "mid teens" vs "midteens" is just going to be something that is specific to the New York Times style guide and not a universal rule of English. "Mid" is just one of those words that is often hyphenated, often not.

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  • ooo! thanks! that REALLY clears the meaning part (thus the "up from" part) I also thought I'd need a hyphen after "low." Hmm.... I will have to see what other people have to say! Thanks a lot though! :^) Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 0:34
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The use of mid-to high teens is being used to avoid having to say mid-teens to high-teens. Without the hyphen, mid could be mid 20's, 30's,etc to high-teens. I think it would've helped for the writer to have added a hyphen after high as well to maintain parallelism, but not adding it didn't destroy the message.

Up from is a phrase that works as a verb to describe progression as apposed to a decline in something. The word "from" is a part of up so technically its considered to be a particle.

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