Not say I want to say: “value-added”

Welcome to the second edition of “Not Say I Want To Say”!

Today’s “Not Say I Want To Say” word is “value-added”.

Example from a news report:

…what is important is for us to go towards a fair and reasonable payment regardless of their nationality and depend more on their skills, productivity and their value-add to the industry, and the business.


From “NTUC chief addresses migrant worker issues”, my emphasis.

How has “value-added” been misused here?
The speaker’s intent is to describe “the amount by which the value of [each migrant worker] is increased at each stage…exclusive of [other] cost[s]” (OED) such as their wages or the externalities which Singapore society has to bear when bringing migrant workers into the country.

However, “value-added” is a compound word more commonly used as an adjective e.g. “value-added services”.

The speaker seems to have inferred that “value-added” can be shortened to “value-add”, which is confusing for the reader: is the speaker using the compound word as a verb or a noun?

How do we use “value-added” correctly?
Ask yourself: is a compound word necessary for the purpose I intend?


When the focus is on the value of the goods or services:

When you want to describe the goods or services:

Efficiency of non-standard use: No change – “value-add” and “add value” have the same number of syllables and characters.

Potential for adoption: DO NOT adopt – there is no added value to the word “value-add”.

Have a good weekend and see you back here on Monday!

About the author

Laremy Lee

A versatile educator, writer and editor, Laremy Lee (李庭辉) has the uncanny knack of being one of the few among his generation in Singapore who crafts compelling stories in different genres.

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