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I want an adjective that unambiguously distinguishes the following two graph types:

Graph with years on x-axis and graph with months in a year on x-axis

It can be a technical term, but hopefully I want a word which laypeople can easily understand.

  1. Which does the word "annual change" refer to, the red one or the blue one? Or is this word ambiguous? I initially thought this only refers to the blue one, but I found there is at least one page that uses this phrase in the sense of "within one specific year" (i.e., red). How much is this acceptable?

  2. Does "inter-annual change" unambiguously and safely refer to the blue one? This dictionary entry defines this word as "Measured or evaluated on a yearly basis", which I think perfectly matches the blue graph. But some native speakers seem to think "inter-annual" only means something like "in relation to a previous/next year" (i.e., 1995 vs 1996, 1996 vs 1997, and so on).

  3. How about "intra-annual"? Does this unambiguously and safely refer to the red one?

  4. What is the best word that unambiguously refers to the blue one as opposed to the red one?

(By the way, I think I know the basic difference between inter- and intra- as in internet/intranet.)

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    Why not just call it "annual change" and "monthly change" respectively?
    – CinCout
    Oct 25, 2017 at 9:30
  • @CinCout I am not totally sure "annual" is unambiguous. In addition, I want to know what "inter-annual" actually means. If "inter-annual" is a bad choice despite the dictionary definition, why? Is it little-known, confusing, redundant, or does it usually mean something totally different?
    – naruto
    Oct 25, 2017 at 9:40
  • 'Annual change" or 'monthly change' are the most straightforward labels that you could use. Intra-annual (in my opinion) might cause confusion as it is a time scale defined as 1 year > intra-annual > 1 month. However, there might be other nuances I'm not familiar with, so let's wait for answers. :)
    – shin
    Oct 25, 2017 at 9:48

2 Answers 2

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You could choose to use any of the following terms. All to me as a native speaker would imply the above.

Year-on-year change and month-on-month change

Yearly change and monthly change

Annual change and monthly change

Your suggestion of intra-annual would sound odd to many people, even if technically it's correct.

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  • Is this AmE or BrE? I'm an AmE speaker and would say "year-over-year" and "month-over-month" rather than "...-on-...".
    – shoover
    Oct 25, 2017 at 17:58
  • BrE, however Ngram suggests U.S. use of "year-over-year" may in fact be less than the adopted use of "year-on-year."
    – Dan
    Oct 25, 2017 at 22:06
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"Inter-annual" and "intra-annual" are probably technically correct, but I don't recall ever hearing someone use either term. I suppose a reasonably sophisticated reader would figure out what you meant, especially if he then looked at the two graphs and saw the legend on the x-axis, but I think it would be more confusing than helpful.

I think the common convention is to call the blue graph "year-to-year change" or "6-year span" or "6-year range" (or whatever number, of course), and the red graph "month-to-month change" or "12-month range" or "2015" (or whatever year it is).

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