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When refering to the rate or probability of getting a false alarm from any kind of system for fault detection, I usually see "false alarm rate" writen, but I think it should be "false-alarm rate". Are both of them correct?

For instance, when writing this question, I also thought about writing "fault-detection system", but I had the same doubt: with or without the hyphen?

[EDIT] CONTEXT: The term "false alarm" is commonly used in quality control, statistical process control, etc., and is equivalent to "false positive", which is maybe more widespread.

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    The hyphen does remove the amibiguity as to whether 'alarm' or 'rate' is false. The second sentence is unambiguous. Oct 14, 2019 at 17:20
  • It's usually called a "false positive rate". You can include a hyphen if you want (it's just a stylistic choice), but I wouldn't. Less is more, as they say. Oct 14, 2019 at 17:23
  • @FumbleFingers In the context of quality control (and maybe others), "false alarm" is the term commonly used. I was actually thinking of this context when posing my question. I will edit it to make it clearer.
    – Vicent
    Oct 14, 2019 at 17:25
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    It really makes no difference to the "hyphenate or not" issue whether we're talking about "false alarms" or "false positives". Nor does it make any difference whether those two noun phrases are semantically equivalent in any given context. This is just a matter of preferred [orthographic] style, and unquestionably the modern trend is to discard unessential punctuation wherever possible (unless you're constrained to follow some particularly conservative style guide). Oct 14, 2019 at 17:30
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    Using the 'hyphenate for clarity only, when dealing with strings that haven't a traditional preferred style' (which would be given in a reasonable dictionary), it does seem that both [false] [alarm rate] and [false alarm] [rate] are inherently quite plausible. This would mandate << false-alarm rate>> for the latter. However, since 'false alarm' is such a well used compound, the unhyphenated version will usually pose no problems (and context will normally disambiguate in any case). If there is ever an ambiguity, the hyphenated version is an acceptable variant spelling (though I'd rewrite). Oct 14, 2019 at 18:27

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