I'm trying to say something like this:

We have developed a strategy to numerically rate the relative level of catastrophicness of a potential hardware failure.

Looking at a thesaurus hasn't really helped me with this one. Can someone help me to convey this without using this ugly, incorrect grammar?

  • 3
    I think the problem is that "catastrophic" is already expressing a level of severity. "Catastrophy" is rather boolean; it is or it isn't.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jul 18, 2012 at 0:22
  • I think if you clearly set out how you arrive at this numeric rating, you may find a more appropriate term. As is is presented now, it is as informative as 'relative level of badness'. For instance, use 'scope' for how many people are affected, 'severity' for how long it will take to fix, 'extent' for how much it will cost to fix, 'depth' for the ratio of that cost to the total worth of the company. Jul 18, 2012 at 0:50
  • "We have developed a strategy to numerically rate the consequences of a potential catastrophic hardware failure."
    – Robusto
    Jul 18, 2012 at 1:07
  • Just a quick note: there is nothing, whatsoever, incorrect about this grammar. You can say that it's not good style, but other than that "relative level of catastrophicness" follows the rules of English syntax and morphology to a tee. Whether or not there are better stylistical options, and there always are, doesn't change the fact that it is perfectly grammatical.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jul 18, 2012 at 8:38
  • I see you've already accepted an answer, so this might be a little late, but I'm wondering about the perceived scope of the negative effects. In other words, from the software point of view, perhaps the "highest level of catastrophicness" is causing the machine to lock up in need of a reboot. However, if you're asking about the user's point of view, we might be talking about severe safety issues, such as a malfunctioning braking system. I ask because I might use different wording depending on the intent (e.g., the word havoc works well for the latter but maybe not so much the former.)
    – J.R.
    Jul 18, 2012 at 9:43

3 Answers 3


Severity, perhaps?

We have developed a strategy to numerically rate the severity of a potential hardware failure.

Or presumably you are measuring the severity of the effects of the hardware failing.

We have developed a strategy to numerically rate the effects of a potential hardware failure, and how badly such an event could affect the business.

  • It's not much of a quorum, but Google Books backs my intuition that at 349 hits, "the impact of any failure" is more likely than "the severity of any failure" (4 instances). Though I do agree that severity is more likely to be used as a noun for the "metric" itself (as a column heading, say) in an assessment/reporting context. Jul 18, 2012 at 11:43

"Catastrophicity" might be closer to being conventional.

  • I wouldn't say it's conventional; but it's certainly more decorative. Should one stress the tæs or the fɪs, though? Jul 18, 2012 at 2:14
  • @JohnLawler: I would think you would stress the fɪs. (I'm just using your notation; I don't know if it's right or not, but I'm pretty sure I know what you mean.) Think "elasticity".
    – user21701
    Jul 18, 2012 at 14:24

I suggest using phrases like level of danger, potential damage, level of havoc, or word havoc ("devastation; mayhem"), as illustrated in following examples.

•We've developed a strategy to numerically rate the level of danger of a potential hardware failure.
• We've developed a strategy to numerically rate the damage potential of foreseeable hardware failures.
• We've developed a strategy to rate the havoc that may be caused by various hardware failures.
• We've developed a strategy to estimate the levels of havoc that will arise when hardware fails.
• We have a procedure that estimates how much devastation will occur when hardware fails.

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