This appeared in the NYT the other day: "...creating a quality product is challenging."

I've always been under the impression that one should say "high-quality" or "low-quality" or have some modifier(?) before "quality". It seems weird to just say "quality" on its own. Is it?

I don't know the grammatical terms for what I'm trying to express (and if someone could fill me in with some explanation I would greatly appreciate it!).

  • "...creating a quality product is challenging." is perfectly acceptable. If the writer were to say "...creating a high quality product is challenging." then one could take it to imply that they are currently producing a sub high quality product and are trying to get better.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Apr 8 '16 at 14:16
  • 1
    ODO for instance clearly gives this common usage: ' quality: adjective ... informal ... Of good quality; excellent: he’s a quality player' Apr 8 '16 at 14:18
  • O.K. so what I'm hearing is that "quality" is assumed to be positive, and you can insert an extra positive modifier if you want, but to make "quality" negative you HAVE to put the modifier in? Does this seem strange to anyone else?
    – jhch
    Apr 8 '16 at 16:39
  • I've seen "The quality" used in English novels to refer to the upper class. See thesaurus.com/browse/upper%20class , scroll down to "elite".
    – ab2
    Apr 9 '16 at 18:45

One of the grammatical terms appropriate here is qualify.

Qualify verb 4 [with object] Grammar (Of a word or phrase) attribute a quality to (another word, especially a preceding noun). Secondly, the misconduct is qualified by the word ‘serious’. - ODO

You're asking whether quality should be qualified.

For words like quality, the unqualified version is not neutral. In your example, creating a quality product refers to a high-quality product. This is perhaps clearer if we use an alternate form, creating a product of quality. If the product was of low quality, then a qualifier would be needed. Note the assumption of high (good) quality in the definition of the unqualified word:

Quality adjective, informal Of good quality; excellent: he’s a quality player - ODO

Compare this with the phrase built for speed, where a car described this way would be praising its ability to perform at high speed, not low speed.


Quality vs Condition

It is unfortunate that the word quality has been abused so long, by shortening high or good quality to just quality, that it is assumed to mean more than its synonym: condition. "These are condition products." vs "These are good condition products."

We are told that definitions change based on the popular usage of words even when their meaning has been left behind. At least that's what I read in a quality dictionary.


Quality is just a measurement of product or someones nature.It can be low or high based on one's personal perseverance.To explain it with some more extent we can take temperature as model. We can scale it by using degree or kelvin or whatever it may be. While calculating the particular day's weather we can say it as high degree or low degree. Here degree denotes 'heat'. Likewise Quality denotes 'Standard'. So we can decide it as high or low.

  • This doesn't really answer the question at all. I do know the meaning of quality (and if I didn't... dictionaries!) but I'm more curious about whether or not you can use the word "quality" in place of "high-quality."
    – jhch
    Apr 8 '16 at 16:35

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