I am in search of a word which I'm not sure exists. What is a good way to describe something which:

— has little to no consequence

— is possibly important in theory

— would be considered good form to do correctly

Here's an example. Suppose you are writing an essay for a professor who really cares about formatting. You italicize a section of words and also italicize the period which follows, even though the period should not have been italicized. Obviously nobody can tell whether a period is italicized or not, but if your professor opened your essay in a word processor, they might note that you had italicized incorrectly.

4 Answers 4


Your example suggests 'pedantry' (n.), which is practiced by 'pedants' (n.pl.), who are called 'pedantic' (adj.):

1. The ostentatious display of academic knowledge, or undue attention paid to minor details or formal rules: His detailed research was dismissed as pedantry.
2. An instance of pedantic behavior: grew tired of his pedantries.

[pedantry. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Retrieved February 21 2016 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/pedantry . Bold emphasis mine.]

Funny you should ask on this site, where practicing pedants produce prolix pedantries.

  • 1
    Excellent answer. In the interest of pedantry, I've corrected some typos :)
    – Charon
    Feb 21, 2016 at 22:39
  • 1
    @Charon, I appreciate the thought but, not being British, I overpedanted your pedantry with the correct, that is, US American English spelling.
    – JEL
    Feb 21, 2016 at 22:49
  • Fair play. I was unaware that our respective vernaculars differed in that regard.
    – Charon
    Feb 21, 2016 at 22:52
  • @Charon, and I, for my part, was unaware the British used the spelling with 's' for the verb but not the noun...I would've been sure it was 's' for both had I not looked it up pedantically.
    – JEL
    Feb 21, 2016 at 22:54
  • So you'd rather use, Elliot, for your Pr., instead of "pedantry", the simple word "formal", I guess...
    – DAVE
    Feb 21, 2016 at 23:32

You could say it's academic, which means that what you have done serves no practical benefit but has been done purely in the interest of being strictly accurate or correct.


  • Having no important consequence or relevancy: The debate about who is to blame has become academic because the business has left town.

  • Hypothetical or theoretical and not expected to produce an immediate or practical result; an academic discussion; an academic question


  • Charon : Nice try ! But in University, "academic" is a normal word & from there we don't understand when we are told it's "academic !" ; there we say : So ?
    – DAVE
    Feb 21, 2016 at 21:09
  • Welcome Charon, on the other hand the question is rather unclear....
    – DAVE
    Feb 21, 2016 at 21:24

I would suggest nicety. A nicety is:

  • generally of little importance
  • but indicative of proper form or behavior
  • could become important under unlikely circumstances

The last point is debatable, but modern usage often seems to equate "nicety" with something that is mostly, but indeed not always dispensable.

Edit: I cannot quite agree with the accepted answer, pedantry. First, it is quite negative, often suggesting excessive concern, narrow-mindedness or ostentatiousness (see, e.g., Merriam Webster). Second, I rarely hear an issue or concern (e.g., formatting) itself described as pedantic or pedantry. Pedantry describes a behavior or one who behaves (the pedant), but it is not so much a property of the issue about which one is being pedantic - which I assume OP was looking for ("a good way to describe something which").


Your question is complex, not difficult but recovers several points. — has little to no consequence : void/vain — is possibly important in theory : so it's no little to no consequence...But the worst comes whith the last requisit : — would be considered good form to do correctly ; so this leads to think that without the good form you can't do correctly...

And what follows for example is no help at all to understand your whole nebulous request concerning a "period". Are you talking about dot or duration ? (I beleive it's not menses) However, I'd say you ask us to "give you a pull".

You could use : flourish ; formal ; ornamental

Pedantic is insulting. Don't forget who you're talking to : you depend on him. (However, in university we don't blame you if you didn't underline ponctuation.)

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