The words "nitpicking" and "pedantic" actually define this phenomenon of pointing out others' minor mistakes. I have only this urge to do the nitpicking; I don't necessarily point out that petty mistake but I really have this urge to do the nitpicking and give a damn care to the exasperated sighs.

So, is there a good word for this "urge to do the nitpicking"?

Again, I am not asking for words that define this nitpicking phenomenon, just the urge to uphold it.

Edit (choosing the answer):

I kind of liked the phrase obsessive-compulsive corrector suggested by GMB below... its only shortcoming being its being sort of a medical jargon (as well as a phrase).

Then I rediscovered the term twitch, which relates broadly to my urge.

Ermanen came up with probably the best answer — censorious. At first, I didn't like the word, since it described me as a person who finds fault in almost everything. But I guess I can soften it — "I am just a little bit of censorious."

  • 1
    Being one of these people, I would also like to have a word for this phenomenon. It is comparable to being a perfectionist who goes beyond his own work to 'perfect' the works of others--less about pointing out errors, more about wondering why the other people have put so little effort in. Yes, that last sentence was highly subjective; bite me.
    – Anonym
    May 25, 2014 at 16:28
  • Your effort transcends my "perfectionist margin". +1 @Anonym
    – Calypto
    May 25, 2014 at 19:07
  • 1
    Your mistek made me twitch. May 25, 2014 at 21:09
  • Nice way to put it. I wonder if "twitch" is the word I was moving hell and heaven for... but the word has a broad definition... really broad.. @SpehroPefhany
    – Calypto
    May 27, 2014 at 3:39
  • Related.
    – tchrist
    Jun 7, 2014 at 20:32

7 Answers 7


If you want to go with one word, it might be censorious: (or censoriousness for the tendency/urge)

having or showing a tendency to criticize someone or something severely : very critical

The details are more related to psychology but this urge might come from chronic criticism (or having a critical mind).

Psychologytoday mentions that these people are usually self-critical also and this transforms into chronic criticism of others.

Critical people tend to be highly self-critical. As hard as they might be on others, they are usually harder on themselves. They were often criticized as children, at least implicitly - the message was clear that, in important ways, they weren't quite good enough. Self-critical patterns tend to form in early childhood and by late adolescence mutate into chronic criticism of others.

Also mentioned is the characteristics of a chronic critic:

Feels compelled to share an (unfavorable) opinion on just about everything. Has never seen an artistic masterpiece or a preschool graduation that couldn't use a bit of tweaking. Prone to eye rolling, smirking, and/or slow-motion head shaking, as well as a tone best described as oozing with condescension.

  • 1
    Amazing research, dude. I would like to change my question to comply with your answer but well... You see, censorious is a really sharp term to address this innocent nitpicking urge many of us share. And, no, I am not criticizing you 'cause I don't think I am afflicted by this chronic criticism... (rolls eye, smirks and shakes head in slow motion) :)
    – Calypto
    May 25, 2014 at 18:53
  • The definition of censorious in that dictionary is a bit strong. But the fault finding does not always have to be harsh. You can read a broader definition here (they are often humorous and gives examples from everyday life): vocabulary.com/dictionary/provision#word=censorious
    – ermanen
    May 25, 2014 at 18:58
  • As per your dictionary's definition - "censorious, an adjective, describes people who are so critical, they find something wrong in everything." I don't want to be defined with that. I am as normal as you are. I don't find mistakes in everything. I just find mistakes that other people, with my level of (or more) intelligence and attention, can. Hence, you would agree with me when I say the word censorious is partially, if not completely, ill-suited. Or am I still missing something?
    – Calypto
    May 25, 2014 at 19:23
  • It is also the tendency and the urge to do that. I just tried to find the closest terms possible. As I said, it can be explained in detail in psychology.
    – ermanen
    May 25, 2014 at 19:25
  • Completely agreed, dude. Your answer is close to the mark, and I really appreciate your research, but I guess it's just me being, you know, a chronic critical.
    – Calypto
    May 25, 2014 at 19:33

A single word might be hard to find, but perhaps obsessive-compulsive corrector might communicate your urge, which is one shared by many. For a shorter version compulsive corrector might work.

  • Yeah, that would definitely work. You're awesome. +1 and soon-to-be-voted-right but let's wait and see if anyone comes with a one word answer..
    – Calypto
    May 25, 2014 at 15:01
  • 1
    In my opinion, this is not the urge. This might be another way of saying nitpicker. Your urge might come from obsessive compulsive disorder.
    – ermanen
    May 25, 2014 at 15:36
  • Point noted. +1 @ermanen
    – Calypto
    May 25, 2014 at 18:40
  • 1
    The thing is--if I understand the urge you are describing--it is not about correcting the other person, rather it's about correcting the writing. The other person may be a complete master of literary arts, like some of the posters on this site, but you would still want to make any errors right if you saw them in their writing. Someone who is obsessed with correctness in also compulsive about fixing errors. The attitude is focused on writing (any writing) being better. Perhaps this urge is somewhat arrogant (Who made you [or me] the corrector-in-chief?), but even so, we're stuck with it.
    – GMB
    May 25, 2014 at 20:43
  • I am absolutely dazzled by your totally correct analysis of my question. Hats off to Sir @GMB , the First Order Knight of Etymology and Neologism.
    – Calypto
    May 27, 2014 at 4:08

I would say that someone who has the urge to nitpick but consistently suppresses that urge is a closet nitpicker, nitpicking only privately, mentally.

  • Now THAT is a good sense of humor. Closet nitpicker? Come on, dude!
    – Calypto
    May 27, 2014 at 3:50
  • I could add shame-faced nitpicker, for someone who occasionally can't hold back and regrets it. ;-)
    – Drew
    May 27, 2014 at 3:52
  • Guess you have been in my shoes... only a bit more tighter (but worth it since intelligence doth come out of experience). However, my question says that I have the "urge" to nitpick; I can hold back and hence have no regrets. Check the answer of @GMB above... he puts light into my question. He really understands what I mean. perhaps then you can come up with a better word, since you seem to have such a good grasp of words.
    – Calypto
    May 27, 2014 at 4:03
  • 1
    I see that you are asking for a term for the urge, not one who has the urge and doesn't follow through on it (which invalidates my answer and pretty much all the others, AFAICT). Sorry, I don't have a term for the urge itself. An urge to correct others is what I'd call it.
    – Drew
    May 27, 2014 at 4:08
  • So would I, Drew. The whole essence of this post is to involve all the brilliant minds as yours and find a single word that defines this phenomena, and, Drew, I think I am closer to the answer.
    – Calypto
    May 27, 2014 at 4:21

I would say self-righteous - google defines it as

having or characterized by a certainty, especially an unfounded one, that one is totally correct or morally superior.

but maybe that's taking it a tad too far...

  • 1
    I'm sure it is. Teachers are duty-bound to point out a majority of mistakes, and scientists, every one they spot. Perhaps 'conscientious' or 'concerned for accuracy'? May 25, 2014 at 14:13
  • Good point, both of you. +1 But, yes, self-righteous ain't appropriate. And, @EdwinAshworth , I like the word "conscientious" but its definition doesn't satiate my question. Likewise, I think there's a difference between being "concerned" about an activity and having an "urge" to do the activity, isn't there? Maybe there's a more precise word?
    – Calypto
    May 25, 2014 at 14:42

Perfectionist may be a interesting word, but does not infer the meaning of "correcting other's mistakes", but that may be repaired with some context. Example:

Larry is a perfectionist, he always organises the sheets of paper on my desk.


In dealing with supposed language mistakes (spoken or written, real or imagined)
the habit of correcting (or "the urge to correct") others' language use is called Peeving.
The general term is Peevage, and people who display the behavior are collectively called Peevers.

This comes from the phrase (X's) Pet Peeve, which doesn't refer to a complaint about dogs or cats,
but rather means some phenomenon that irritates someone (X), and which X complains about.


Consider exacting and exactingness.

Use the adjective exacting to describe something or someone very precise or strict in its requirements. If you teacher has exacting standards about spelling and punctuation, you'd better check your final paper.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.