I'm translating a document into English, and the sentence structure is tempting me to use the word costwise in the sentence.

Example: "high-quality, costwise competitive services." This would refer to services that are of high quality and are also competitive with regard to cost (cf. competitive with regard to quality or availability).

Does costwise qualify as a word? Would it be spelled that way in British English?


Costwise does qualify as word, because the -wise suffix is productive; that is, adding -wise forms an adjective or adverb of manner. Dictionaries often don't individually list words formed by productive affixes.

Where the resulting word is awkward, like security-wise, which is actually quoted in Oxford Dictionaries, it can be hyphenated. Hyphens are gradually going out of fashion, particularly in simpler words where the components are readily identifiable like costwise. As ODO states, "most of the words so formed are considered inelegant or not good English style."

There is an issue with its placement in the sentence, though. Costwise is not an adverb which can precede the adjective it qualifies: it must occur after it. This applies to most, if not all, -wise adverbs.

high-quality, competitive services costwise.

This is what makes it "inelegant, not good style".

In this example, you are describing that the services are competitive on cost, so you could simply form a compound adjective:

high-quality, cost-competitive services

This has the effect of coining a little bit of business jargon, which may or may not be desirable.

  • Thank you. I will change it to cost-competitive, which says what it needs to say and fits the context perfectly. – Mikko Sep 7 '16 at 8:54
  • Usually one would say "competitively priced". – aparente001 Sep 9 '16 at 1:32

As far as strict rules go, costwise is not a word since it's not recognized by any dictionary.


However adding a hyphen and writing cost-wise makes it grammatically correct and conveys the message.

  • Andrew’s surely right, affix-wise. ‘cost-competitive services’ trumps ‘competitive services costwise’. ‘Competitive services, costwise’ might lie between them if the new comma didn’t clash, as in ‘high-quality, competitive services, costwise’ If the object is not just to find a suitable phrase but specifically to justify using ‘costwise’, what would be wrong with ‘high-quality, costwise-competitive services’ or ‘high-quality services, costwise-competitive’ or ‘high-quality services the are competitive, costwise’? For further examples, see Peter Sellars’ The Mouse on The Moon 1963. – Robbie Goodwin Sep 21 '16 at 21:56

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