For example suppose we record the actions (clicks) a user performs during the use of software.

What "the order of actions" is called and what is the meaning of the following choices?

  • action order (my guess)
  • actions order
  • actions' order
  • action's order

For several times, I have encountered such compound phrases. What is the rule to construct them?

I should add that I want to use the term other places in the article.

... we record the user actions during answering the test. We specifically record the order in which the user choose the options above ... For example, when the actual word is “heat”, a user may first enter “hi”, then clicks on the “say again” button and correct it to the “hea” and finally enters “heat”. The (order of actions for or action order of ?) doing this test would be “CWSCCC” which is interpreted as “Correct, Wrong, Say again, Correct, Correct, Correct”.

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    Personally, I think "action order" is perfectly fine and understandable. I don't have any way to support that but I'm a native AmE speaker and that's my 2 cents. – Catija Jul 12 '15 at 20:38
  • Adding a full example sentence would really help here. – user3169 Jul 12 '15 at 20:42
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    To avoid possible confusion for the reader, I would stay with "the order of actions". Is there some reason you want to write it differently? – user3169 Jul 12 '15 at 20:49
  • Wow, there's a lot wrong in that paragraph and you're focused on this little issue. – Catija Jul 12 '15 at 20:51
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    @Ahmad It sounds fine to me grammatically (the comma before "and" isn't necessary), though I feel it implies you expect mistakes to be made. Perhaps consider "any mistakes" instead of "the mistakes"? – Catija Jul 12 '15 at 21:34

What "the order of actions" is called

Of your four choices, you should call it "the actions' order." You can also say "order of actions." In fact, that might be easier to understand.

what is the meaning of the following choices?

  • action order (my guess)

You could use this, but "actions' order" sounds better, at least to me. Action is an adjective, so this phrase means something like "an order of the action kind."

  • actions order

Many readers would probably interpret this as "actions' order" or "action's order" because forgetting apostrophes is a common mistake. However, this could also be read as a sentence, if a strange and incomplete one. "Actions" would be the subject and "order" would be the verb, so the sentence would be saying that actions are ordering something.

  • actions' order

This means what you're trying to say: "the order of the actions."

  • action's order

This means the order of a single action.

For several times, I have encountered such compound phrases. What is the rule to construct them?

The Purdue OWL is a grammar reference maintained by Purdue University's writing lab. Here are their rules for forming possessives (source):

  • "Add 's to the singular form of the word (even if it ends in -s)."
  • "Add 's to the plural forms that do not end in -s."
  • "Add ' to the end of plural nouns that end in -s."
  • "Add 's to the end of compound words."

The third (bolded) rule is the one that applies here.

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  • Thank you very much, by "several times..." I mean in general I don't know how to device terms mostly (adjective + noun) to label somethings. – Ahmad Jul 12 '15 at 21:16

For plural nouns, add an apostrophe at the end.

actions' order.

Here's the rules (reference):

Type                       Example   Possessive Case
singular noun              dog       dog's dinner
plural noun                dogs      dogs' dinner
singular noun ending -s    Chris     Chris' hat or Chris's hat
plural noun not ending -s  People    People's rights

You might also consider using of as it can be clearer sometimes:

order of [the] actions

Action order - in this phrase, action is an adjective that modifies order, and it answers the question what kind of order? - which is what adjectives do.

If you use this phrase, you are no longer referencing specific actions, but talking about a special type of order - which might exist, or merely could exist. Thus, Action order should not be used if you mentioned real, existing actions earlier in conversation, and are now talking about the order of those specific actions.

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  • Thank you, but then what would be the application or meaning of the others? I mean their differences? for example what mean action order – Ahmad Jul 12 '15 at 20:23
  • Grammar Monster is an unreliable reference. Quirk et al's 1985 A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language has a nice chart on p.320. – snailplane Jul 12 '15 at 20:29
  • Someway I want to devise the term to use it in other paragraphs. Then you mean action order could be a candidate? – Ahmad Jul 12 '15 at 20:43
  • @user3169 I edited my question to provide the context – Ahmad Jul 12 '15 at 20:50
  • For example: "The action order changes depending whether the user is in the US or Australia." – user3169 Jul 12 '15 at 20:56

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