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For example, admission to a benefit concert may be afforded by a suggested minimum donation. Or perhaps by a minimum suggested donation. To me, the latter feels not quite right, like the minimum qualifier is being applied to the wrong place.

In fact, I think that adding minimum and suggested should be mutually exclusive here. Either the donation is a suggested amount, or it has a specified minimum. I can see, though, that the intention is to not place a hard limit on the entry fee, otherwise it's not really more than a ticket price. And at the same time, they want to encourage donations that are more than the minimum.

So, given that both adjectives are applied, is there a semantic difference when you switch the order?

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    No discernible semantic difference. Nor is any semantic difference discernible. – BladorthinTheGrey Oct 28 '16 at 22:04
  • @BladorthinTheGrey -is any discernible difference semantic? – Malvolio Oct 28 '16 at 22:08
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    Both orders are used and are acceptable. I'd prefer 'There is a suggested minimum donation' where the donation is being mentioned for the first time, but 'The minimum suggested donation is $5' when it is no news to the persons addressed that there is a suggested minimum donation. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 28 '16 at 22:29
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The meanings are definitely different in my mind. When you say "minimum suggested donation," you could be emphasizing that the donation is only a suggestion, not required. "Suggested minimum donation" could imply that a donation is required, and it should be at least this amount. There are other ways to interpret either, but these two seemed particularly likely to my ear. Any use of these phrases requires additional context or prior understanding.

  • That's the difference that was nagging at me. – JMD Nov 9 '16 at 0:43
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There is a subtle semantic difference. When you say "suggested minimum donation", it means that the minimum donation have already been explicitly suggested (i.e. there are alternative amounts suggested and one of them is already referred to as the "minimum donation"). On the other hand, "minimum suggested donation" may not have the qualifier "minimum" explicitly, when the suggested donation alternatives were listed (i.e. the alternatives are just listed without pointing out which one is the minimum). In this case, the readers or audience may need to do the figuring out which one is the minimum by going through the list and comparing each list element.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Oct 30 '16 at 15:41

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