1

I encountered preciser as a comparative of precise and thought it was incorrect. However, some reputable online dictionaries (1, 2) return hits for "preciser". But they do not explicitly list the word, so maybe what I am seeing is just an automatic redirection to precise.

Can preciser be considered valid?

4

It is not impossible to find examples of "preciser" being used in published texts. From Google Books:

However, such examples can be considered negligible compared to the use of "more precise":

Google Ngram Viewer

The usual guideline given for selecting comparative forms is to use -er for monosyllabic adjectives and some disyllabic adjectives, particularly ones that end in unstressed syllables: precise does not meet this criterion. But there are no particularly definite rules, so I'm not really sure how anyone could argue that some particular form is "valid" or "invalid". That is to say, I don't understand what these words would mean in this context. I think it would be preciser to speak of preferences and customary usage. (My own preference is for "more precise": you can see that I tried out "preciser" in the previous sentence, but I don't like the way it sounds there.)

See the answers to "Conundrum: 'cleverer' or 'more clever', 'simpler' or 'more simple' etc".

  • 1
    I can't think of a gooder usual guideline than that. – John Clifford Nov 6 '17 at 21:38
  • @JohnClifford: Interestingly enough, even though better is irregular in that it is built on a suppletive stem, it is still ends in the suffix "-er" like any normal comparative form. The comparative form worse has an irregular ending, though. – herisson Nov 6 '17 at 22:39
  • As to the guideline, so far I had only heard "-er is acceptable for adjectives with up to two syllables", but I think it is possible to find many examples that violate that in the sense that -er feels wrong (as preciser does to me, as well). The bit about stress may help explain that. As to the examples, IMO they show judicious use of preciser where more precise would be cumbersome or even ambiguous. Nice answer, all in all :-). – xebtl Nov 13 '17 at 6:31
5

No. The comparative is

  • more precise

Looking at your Merriam Webster reference, I see that it lists an example using more precise.

  • As to the example, it could still be that both forms were correct. But M-W seems to list "-er" comparatives (explicitly)[merriam-webster.com/dictionary/big] for advectives that have them (though apparently not for all (?)), but no comparative is listed for "precise". To sum up, I am sure you are right :-). Somebody must have been taking the "two-syllable comparative rule" too seriously. – xebtl Jun 12 '15 at 8:42
  • The job of the website is to find the word you want. It's good that if you search for "preciser" you find the page that describes precise and includes "more precise" because that does indeed tell someone looking for "preciser" what they want to know. – Jon Hanna Jun 12 '15 at 10:08

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