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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.

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

ped·ant·ry
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.

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  • 1
    Excellent answer. In the interest of pedantry, I've corrected some typos :)
    – Charon
    Feb 21, 2016 at 22:39
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    @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
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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.

Academic

  • 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

TFD

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  • 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
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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").

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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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