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I was wondering if there is a difference in the meaning between the two expressions..

Level of something "Maintain high level of quality"

Something level "Maintain high quality level"

Thanks in advance.

3 Answers 3

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They have the same meaning. Just different sentence structures.I'd prefer to use the former one though.

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No, there's no difference in meaning. Saying "high quality level" merely turns "quality" into a noun adjunct that adjectivally modifies "level" instead of being a noun that modifies "level" by way of an adjectival prepositional phrase. As they say, "There's more than one way to skin a cat."

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Perhaps they could be interpreted the same way. And, in that interpretation, they would mean the same thing.

A high level of quality.

This would be the same thing as elevated standards, such as fine workmanship, rare artwork, and gourmet food.

In your sentence, with the meaning you want to ascribe to it, it should be punctuated differently:

A high quality-level.

And, in this interpretation, it would mean the same thing.


But, without any punctuation at all (as you wrote it), and without any other context or an explicit comparison between the two of them, I would be more inclined to interpret it in this way:

A high-quality level.

Although I can make myself think of this the same way as you intend, to me it sounds more like a finely made (and, therefore, more expensive) tool.

A level is a tool that measures a surface to see if it's level or not:

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So, while the two sentences can mean the same thing, they don't necessarily have to. Without a hyphen to clearly specify the distinction in the second sentence, or any other context, it is ambiguous.

In fact, Google Books Ngram Viewer shows that high quality is a much more common phrase than quality level. So if a phrase were to be inferred (absent hyphens and context), it would more typically be the adjectival high quality (a well-made tool).

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  • No, your answer alters the parameters of the question. Adding a hyphen changes the meaning. It makes "high" modify "quality" and creates the modifier "high-quality" instead of having "high" modify the noun phrase "quality level" where "quality" is being used as a noun adjunct. Without the hyphen, the way he wrote it, has the same meaning as saying "high level of quality."
    – Billy
    Commented Jul 8, 2018 at 3:59
  • @billy No, it does not have the same meaning without a hyphen. Without a hyphen, it is ambiguous—and the meaning can be taken either way. That's why there are rules for using hyphens with compound adjectives. Quality level is not a well known noun phrase. It's something that's been arbitrarily formed from individual words. (As opposed to ice cream, which would not be confused.) Since it can be meant in two different way, punctuation is essential. Commented Jul 8, 2018 at 4:12
  • @billy In fact, Google Books Ngram Viewer shows that high quality is a much more common adjectival phrase than quality level is a noun phrase. So if a phrase were to be inferred (absent hyphens), it would more typically be the reverse of what you claim. Commented Jul 8, 2018 at 4:26
  • It is not ambiguous, but for the sake of argument, say it is, like you say, then one of those meanings is exactly the meaning I cite and the asker intends, and like almost every word in the English language having multiple meanings, what is meant can be derived from context, so all of this flailing and wailing you're doing is to no avail as you actually concede my point.
    – Billy
    Commented Jul 8, 2018 at 5:32
  • As for all that nonsense about Google Ngrams, that is pure foolishness. Google Ngrams don't say anything about meaning. All a Google Ngram query does is look for words or groups of words in published works, not provide definitions of what they mean. Moreover, Google Ngram does absolutely nothing with hyphens, ignoring hyphens completely in search parameters. So it's blatantly obvious that all you're trying to accomplish here is blow a lot of smoke. No amount of smoke blowing, though, is going to miraculously make you right. I'd say, "Nice try," but it actually wasn't.
    – Billy
    Commented Jul 8, 2018 at 5:39

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