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I have a questionnaire that I am analyzing and it needs to be documented. I am phrasing a sentence like :

Q3 had the maximum number of '0' scores

vs.

Q3 had the highest number of '0' scores.

Which is correct ? I am not sure if highest would be the right word in this context.

closed as off-topic by Nathaniel, NVZ, Edwin Ashworth, jimm101, curiousdannii Apr 3 '16 at 2:55

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  • Both are ambiguous because they might mean more than any other question, or they might mean the most that could possibly have happened. I think you want the most (number of) 'o' scores for a comparison with other scores - most being the superlative of more. – Phil Sweet Apr 2 '16 at 15:56
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This is a question about how the usage of the terms maximum and highest.

First, the definitions (note that highest is the superlative form of high):

Maximum adjective As great, high, or intense as possible or permitted - ODO

High adjective 2 Great, or greater than normal, in quantity, size, or intensity - ODO

Suppose you are analysing 100 questionnaires, each with 3 questions Q1, Q2 and Q3, and the number of questionnaires returning 'o' scores for the questions were 20, 30 and 40 respectively.

Then you can say unambiguously that Q3 had the highest number of 'o' scores. In this context, highest refers simply to the score with the greatest size, irrespective of what that size could possibly be.

When it comes to maximum, it depends on the scope. If the context doesn't make clear that the scope is restricted to the 3 scores, then the phrase Q3 had the maximum number of 'o' scores would mean that Q3 had 100 'o' scores (100 is 'as great as possible' in this context). However, the context can restrict the scope, so you can also say that Q3 had the maximum number of 'o' scores out of the three questions.

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It seems that highest number of 0 score is correct and better. I will paste part of an academic article below that used highest number. I hope It will be useful: photograph with the highest number of +1 scores, with the greatest number of 0 scores and the lowest number of -1 scores; classification or not in the assessment of the 30 evaluators . In selecting the esthetically unpleasant facial profiles, should there be a draw score, the following tie-breakers were used in the following order of priority: photograph with the highest number of -1 scores, with the highest number of 0 scores and the lowest number of +1 scores; classification or not in the assessment of the 30 evaluators. address:Dental Press J. Orthod. vol.19 no.2 Maringá Mar./Apr. 2014 http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/2176-9451.19.2.066-075.oar

Original Article

Photometric analysis of esthetically pleasant and unpleasant facial profile http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S2176-94512014000200066&script=sci_arttext&tlng=es Dr Alireza Talebian

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