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Which one is more idiomatic?

  • "list of numbers" or "numbers list"
  • "table of sales figures" or "sales figures table"
  • "list of characters" or "characters list"

Thx

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  • We are a bit short on context here, but off the cuff I'd say the first version each.
    – Stephie
    Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 22:46
  • 1
    @Stephie That doesn't always work, though: "sales chart" vs. "chart of sales" and "weather map" vs. "map of weather".
    – cpast
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 0:03
  • @cpast: I was just giving a quick comment on the examples given, never claiming a certain pattern to be more idiomatic. Hence my request for context.
    – Stephie
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 6:07

1 Answer 1

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"list of numbers" vs "numbers list"

I'm assuming you're talking about something like this:

469, 382, 721, 883

That's a list of numbers. I'd avoid "numbers list", because that could easily be confused with numbered list, which is something different:

  1. Eggs
  2. Flour
  3. Butter
  4. Seasoning

(There's another reason to avoid numbers list, too, but we'll cover that at the end of this answer).


"tables of sales figures" or "sales figures table"

The first one is plural (more than one table), the second one is singular (one table of sales figures).

For comparison purposes, let's focus on the singular (that is, table of sales figures and sales figure table). Either one is just fine, although one or the other might sound a little better in certain contexts. For example, if you want terse language, the latter is convenient to use:

Sales have been declining sharply over the past four years; see the sales figure table below.

but the former might sound better in other contexts:

Sales have been declining sharply over the past four years; Appendix A of this report contains a table of sales figures.

Mostly, it's a matter of context and personal preference. However, as @cpast noted in an astute comment, there are some contexts where these are idiomatic and therefore not so interchangeable.


"list of characters" vs "characters list"

For this one, I would use the singular form when using character as an adjective:

The first page of the play has a list of characters.
The first page of the play has a character list.


The general case: "List of X" vs "X list"

Either form can be used, although it should be noted: even when the noun is plural in the first form, it's generally singular in the second.

For example, on the Stack Exchange, Ted might talk about a list of questions. Later in the discussion, Ned might refer to this as a question list (not questions list).

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  • Great, Thanks!. "Tables of..." was a typo. Sorry. I've edited the question. You've guessed right, I meant to type "Table of Sales Figures". Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 4:32

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