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?

  • 1
    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 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 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 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 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 at 15:56

1 Answer 1


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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