I was documenting a software feature for an internal audience and I wrote:

"...when the character count is on the higher side."

Here, I wanted to mean a case where the number of characters is too many. I was not supposed to give the actual number so I wrote this. To me, "too many" sounds informal in this context. However, people had reservations about the usage of the phrase "on the higher side."

Is this a correct usage? Can it be used in formal settings? Are there any other alternative phrases?

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    It would usually be the "flat" form ...is on the high side anyway, but you should note that this usage is both vague and informal. In any halfway "formal" context, I suggest rephrasing to something more like ...is relatively high. Better yet, make sure your context properly defines what "high" means here, so you don't need to include "relatively" to reflect the lack of precision. Then it's just when the character count is high. Jul 24 '21 at 11:32
  • 2
    Yes, it is a meaningful phrase. However, it doesn't express what you wanted to say -- "higher side" still indicates that the character count is OK. If it's excessive, you need to be specific as possible -- say something like "exceeds the established limit". Jul 24 '21 at 12:37

The only time you use the before a comparative (xxxxx-er) is when you are referring to the xxxx-er of two options. For example, it there were two tables, you could say

The tall people can sit at the higher table.

It would be perfectly acceptable to say:

...when the character count is high

It might also be reasonable to say:

...when the character count is on the high side

... though this is normally used in the set phrase a bit on the high side. Here is an example:

The price at Rs 15 and 20 of the two volumes respectively is a bit on the high side for individual buyers. - Journal of industrial and scientific research, 1952

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