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

Starts with the letter "P"

  • Perfectionistic?
    – GMB
    Jul 20, 2014 at 14:37
  • 2
    If a word starting with M is acceptable too, try meticulous. Jul 20, 2014 at 15:27
  • 1
    I think you’re too picky about the “starts with the letter p” bit. The most obvious answer is attentive.
    – tchrist
    Jul 20, 2014 at 16:16
  • 5
    Are you doing a crossword or why does it need to start with a P?
    – Em1
    Jul 21, 2014 at 11:37
  • @Em1 maybe alliteration?
    – Golden Cuy
    Nov 26, 2014 at 8:13

11 Answers 11


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

  • @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, 2014 at 13:47
  • 10
    In British English this is pernickety Jul 20, 2014 at 17:55
  • 1
    In both American and British English it is an odd and dated word.
    – user39425
    Jul 21, 2014 at 23:24
  • 1
    @fredsbend Hardly. It depends whom you’re dating.
    – tchrist
    Jul 22, 2014 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, 2016 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.

  • Does that mean that the excessive concern being put is unnecessary? Or, can it be necessary also?
    – asn
    May 7, 2019 at 7:45

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.


  • 1
    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. Jul 20, 2014 at 18:45
  • @MartinSmith: OK, fixed.
    – Tom Au
    Jul 20, 2014 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”.

  • Pettyfrogging is the business of busybodies.
    – user39425
    Jul 21, 2014 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.


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.


I would add picky:

  • exacting especially about details.

  • excessively meticulous; fussy.

Source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com


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.


"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:


  • 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, 2014 at 15:32
  • i just learned something about myself with your answer. thanks! Aug 18, 2015 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.


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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