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By my current understanding of the two words, the sentence:

The preciseness of this precision is very definite

is grammatically correct. Correct me if I'm wrong, and if so; what is the distinction between the two words?

OED definition of preciseness:

Exactness, accuracy; definiteness; minuteness.

OED definition of precision:

a. An instance of exactness or preciseness; a particular, nicety, minute detail, esp. of language.

b. The fact, condition, or quality of being precise; exactness, accuracy.


Also, what is the word for the situation in which this can occur? (I want to say it's the opposite of an oxymoron?)

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  • Related:english.stackexchange.com/questions/74858/…
    – user66974
    Sep 5, 2014 at 7:11
  • The sentence is grammatically correct, but so is "colorless green ideas sleep furiously". I'd say the sentence is clumsy and redundant (not quite a tautology, which would be the opposite of oxymoron). I would prefer to say "the precision is well known".
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 5, 2014 at 17:13
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    The overlap between the two words is very great indeed—especially as between the "exactness, accuracy" meaning of preciseness and the definition b ("The fact, condition, or quality of being precise; exactness, accuracy") meaning of precision. In fact, in those overlapping senses (it seems to me) the two words are interchangeable.
    – Sven Yargs
    Feb 28, 2017 at 7:02

2 Answers 2

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I think the words are largely equivalent, but because precision itself could be measured as to 'how precise' it is, the speaker may have chosen another form to avoid cacophony, somewhat similar perhaps to the following example:

"You already had two helpings of dinner, don't take two desserts also." (rather than "two desserts too")

I think a better overall form for the original sentence could be:

"The precision level is well-defined."

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Wikidiff defines precision and preciseness as a state and respectively as a condition. As if they didn't know that the first word the dictionary use to define state is condition! (see Cambridge). However, it does say that preciseness has a second, derogatory meaning:

(dated) pedantic behaviour

Writingtips seems to know better:

When used in reference to the arts and sciences, the term precision usually implies such clearness of definition or such sharpness in distinction or in distinguishing that there is no confusion about outlines, boundaries, dividing lines, or movements.

Precision is also used in reference to an instrument, a machine, or a part of a machine that must be made with such exactness of measurements that an infinitesimal fraction of an inch would debar it from fulfilling its function.

Preciseness is rarely interchangeable with precision, since it carries so strong an implication of severity or of strictness, or sometimes of overnicety in the observance of religious laws, the code of one's profession, or the proprieties as dictated by one's class or social equals that it is depreciative as often as it is laudatory.

Whether it is for reason that preciseness is avoided in writing, I do not know, but this NGram clearly shows preference for precision:

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Note that accuracy surpasses precision by far.

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