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Working on a thesis, I was wondering how to correctly hyphenate (if at all) the term "high data rate" in the following sentence:

High data rate ECUs are connected directly to the backbone.

The term "data rate" as such is not hyphenated. But compounds with "high" are hyphenated, e.g. as in "high-income", "high-stress". However, writing "high-data rate" doesn't seem right to me. What would be the correct hyphenation in this case?

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    Can you look at Doubly hyphenated words and the question linked in its comments and tell me if that solves your question?
    – Laurel
    Sep 18, 2023 at 13:20
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    The fact that data rate does not get a hyphen regularly does not mean it doesn't need it here. Sep 18, 2023 at 13:58
  • Here, 'high' clearly modifies 'data rate' (compare 'small microwave oven'): [high] [data rate]. We are clearly not talking about 'high data' any more than we are about 'small microwave'. As Yosef implies, 'data rate' is at least a strong collocation, arguably a compound noun. It is not usually hyphenated, and there's no need to over-elaborate here. Contrast 'three hundred year-old oak trees' (/ 'three hundred-year-old oak trees' / 'three-hundred-year-old oak trees'.) // I believe 'don't over-elaborate' nowadays competes with the 'eleven-year-old boy rule' where clarity isn't an issue. Sep 18, 2023 at 15:29
  • ... Google shows merely two returns in a search for "high data rate ECUs": 'high data rate ECUs' and 'high data-rate ECUs'. I'd not argue against double hyphenation here, but the second example here is non-standard / misleading. None or two. // Unhyphenated examples on the internet include High data rate optical transceivers / cable assemblies / wireless communication / transfer / transmitter / waveform / trunking systems // high data rate LED-based system / high data rate, high bandwidth connectors .... Sep 18, 2023 at 15:42
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    Checking "high flow rate" pumps/valves/nozzles and "high interest rate" loan/savings accounts/CDs, I found every combination of hyphens imaginable, with the silly ones about as frequent as the sensible ones. The high- rule doesn't appear to be helping writers with compound modifiers.
    – Phil Sweet
    Sep 18, 2023 at 15:56

3 Answers 3

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Contextually relevant sources do not use a hyphen for high data rates.

Small cells have the same characteristics as base stations used by telecom companies for years. However, they can handle high data rates for mobile broadband and consumers, as well as high densities of low-speed, low-power devices for IoT.

high data rate

Optical fibers allow for high data rates and wide bandwidths, have relatively low attenuation, can cover long distances with a small number of repeaters, and are immune to crosstalk and other forms of electromagnetic interference that disrupt electrical transmission. I do not accept. Real-time routing protocols and redundancy built into the backbone can also reroute traffic in the event of a failure. Data rates on backbone lines have increased over time. In 1998, all US backbone networks used the slowest data rate of 45 Mbit/s. However, advances in technology meant that by the mid-2000s, 41 percent of backbones were delivering data rates of 2,488 Mbit/s and above.

[high data rates][2]

Optical fibers allow for high data rates and wide bandwidths, have relatively low attenuation, can cover long distances with a small number of repeaters, and are immune to crosstalk and other forms of electromagnetic interference that disrupt electrical transmission.

[high date rates][3]

[2]: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2737&context=smallsat#:~:text=High%20data%20rates%20(%3E50%20megabits,tape%20recorders%20on%20some%20missions. [3]: https://academic-accelerator.com/encyclopedia/internet-backbone

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    You have high data rage. Feb 15 at 19:04
  • Your first sentence. Feb 20 at 23:30
  • I thought I'd get censured. And I'd miss the pun opportunity. Feb 21 at 16:30
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Speaking merely as a native speaker and techie, I think it is ok either way. That is, either "high data rate" or "high-data-rate". Definitely not "high-data rate". Intuitively, the hyphens help "combine" the words so they serve as a single modifier to the head-noun "ECUs". The ECUs are not "high" and "data" and "rate" -- instead, they have a single property called "high data rate".

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Here, 'high' clearly modifies 'data rate' (compare 'small microwave oven'):

             [high] [data rate]                 ↔ ↔ ↔ ↔                  [small] [microwave oven].

We are clearly not talking about 'high data' any more than we are about 'small microwave'. As Yosef implies, 'data rate' is at least a strong collocation, arguably a compound noun. It is not usually hyphenated, and there's no need to over-elaborate here.

Contrast

  • three hundred year-old oak trees [300 trees]
  • three hundred-year-old oak trees [3 trees]
  • three-hundred-year-old oak trees. [some old trees]

I believe the 'don't over-elaborate when it comes to punctuating' stance nowadays competes with the 'eleven-year-old boy rule' where clarity isn't an issue.

Google shows merely two returns in a search for "high data rate ECUs":

  • [1] high data rate ECUs          and
  • [2] high data-rate ECUs.

I'd not argue against double hyphenation here, or the use of an en-dash for the less cohesive bond:

  • high-data-rate [+ noun phrase]
  • high–data-rate [+ NP]

but the second example here is non-standard and consequently misleading. What is 'high' modifying? None or two hyphens are best.

Unhyphenated examples on the internet include

  • high data rate optical transceivers
  • high data rate cable assemblies
  • high data rate wireless communication
  • high data rate transfer
  • high data rate transmitter
  • high data rate waveform
  • high data rate trunking systems
  • high data rate LED-based system
  • high data rate, high bandwidth connectors

The string 'data rate' is not usually hyphenated when not used attributively (prenominally), and the creditable examples of the unhyphenated compound premodifier (eg 'high data rate optical transceivers') on the internet, and their obvious default meaning, argue that the unhyphenated form is most common.

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