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Looking for a word that describes "Paying attention to the smallest details, though they might not matter".

Starts with the letter "P"

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Perfectionistic? – GMB Jul 20 '14 at 14:37
If a word starting with M is acceptable too, try meticulous. – Autoresponder Jul 20 '14 at 15:27
I think you’re too picky about the “starts with the letter p” bit. The most obvious answer is attentive. – tchrist Jul 20 '14 at 16:16
Are you doing a crossword or why does it need to start with a P? – Em1 Jul 21 '14 at 11:37
@Em1 maybe alliteration? – Andrew Grimm Nov 26 '14 at 8:13

11 Answers 11

up vote 14 down vote accepted

persnickety: giving a lot of attention to details that are minor or not important

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@coneslayer...That's a word I didn't know...learning somethng new everyday :) I'm adopting it for use in the office... – marantou Jul 20 '14 at 13:47
In British English this is pernickety – Martin Smith Jul 20 '14 at 17:55
In both American and British English it is an odd and dated word. – fredsbend Jul 21 '14 at 23:24
@fredsbend Hardly. It depends whom you’re dating. – tchrist Jul 22 '14 at 1:21
@fredsbend: Hmm. Google Define loves it, showing it steadily climbing up the usage curve over the past few decades. (google.com/search?q=persnickety+define) – Sz. Apr 8 at 10:05

Pedantic is the first word that comes to mind.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, pedantic is someone who is:

Excessively concerned with minor details or rules, overscrupulous.

Some synonyms beginning with a "P" : perfectionist, punctilious, precisionist.

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+1 for punctilious. – bib Jul 20 '14 at 16:25

I think that the "p" word you might want is punctilious.

Punctilious (comparative more punctilious, superlative most punctilious)

  1. Strictly attentive to detail; meticulous or fastidious, particularly to codes or conventions.

    With a punctilious slap of the gloves, the duel was now inevitable.

  2. Precise or scrupulous; finicky or nitpicky.


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It would be helpful to include a dictionary definition so people unfamiliar with the word don't have to google it too see how closely it fits. – Martin Smith Jul 20 '14 at 18:45
@MartinSmith: OK, fixed. – Tom Au Jul 20 '14 at 18:52

Consider pettifogging, present participle of pettifog, which per wiktionary is to quibble and nitpick over trivial details. A pettifogger is “Someone who quibbles over trivia, and raises petty, annoying objections”.

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Pettyfrogging is the business of busybodies. – fredsbend Jul 21 '14 at 23:26

Precisian, OED sense 2:

A person who is rigidly precise or punctilious in the observance of rules or forms; a purist, a stickler, a pedant.

Precise, OED sense 3.a:

Strict in the observance of rule, usage, etc.; formal, correct; scrupulous, particular; (occas.) overly formal, fastidious. Also: (of a practice or rule) strictly observed.

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I would add picky:

  • exacting especially about details.

  • excessively meticulous; fussy.

Source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com

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Punctilious would be my answer if it had to begin with p, and was the one that first came to mind. However, I think that meticulous is a word that better matches the question.

Meticulous is a positive word. Per(s)nickety implies being difficult to please more than it does attention to detail, and is also a negative word.

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I often use the word particular to describe someone who is meticulous or fastidious.

  1. : of, relating to, or being a single person or thing
  2. obsolete : partial
  3. : of, relating to, or concerned with details
  4. a : distinctive among other examples or cases of the same general category : notably unusual
    b : being one unit or element among others
  5. a : denoting an individual member or subclass in logic
    b : affirming or denying a predicate to a part of the subject —used of a proposition in logic <“some men are wise” is a particular affirmative>
  6. a : concerned over or attentive to details : meticulous
    b : nice in taste : fastidious
    c : hard to please : exacting

This word has the advantage of being much more common over the others mentioned here. I would prefer this to all the others already listed.

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"Pedantic" often applies to someone who takes "correctness" to an extreme level, including paying attention to details that don't matter in the grand scheme.

Edit: Didn't notice that this was previously mentioned so I've improved with a link:


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Welcome to ELU.SE. Please do read through other answers when adding one. This doesn't add anything to a previous answer. – Andrew Leach Jul 21 '14 at 15:32
i just learned something about myself with your answer. thanks! – stupidbunny Aug 18 '15 at 0:16

You may be looking for painstaking. By itself it doesn't mean "attention to detail", but it is often combined with it to intensify: painstaking attention to detail.

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The word that came to mind for me was "picayune" which as an adjective means worthless or useless. So in context the following would answer the OP's question:

"I don't like to ask Sam to review my designs because he points out picayune grammatical mistakes while missing important conceptual errors."

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protected by tchrist Feb 22 '15 at 0:27

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