Why are people more likely to say "attention to detail" over "attention to details"?

I understand both are grammatically correct. But what slight difference between them, if there is any, makes it more likely that people will go with "attention to detail" instead of "attention to details"?

I personally do think though that "attention to details" does kind of sound somewhat odd, but can't quite put my finger on why it might. Can anybody please elaborate and explain why? Or am I just wrong and does it sound fine to you?

  • 2
    Detail can be a mass noun or a count noun - the difference is that in the first version of your sentence it is used as a mass noun, and in the second it is used as a count noun. If the second sounds odd, it is just because you are more used to hearing the first version. I believe that previous generations tended to use mass nouns more often but that this is changing - hence take actions (previously take action) or a good diet will include plenty of fruits and vegetables (previously fruit and vegetables).
    – user339660
    Jul 24, 2019 at 7:42
  • The comment of @user339660 is the correct answer. It's what the answer of Brook Kelsey below is beating on the door of but fails to actually get inside and iterate. Aug 23, 2019 at 11:23
  • There can be a pragmatic difference. Perhaps this is largely due to the oddness you're picking up on (the unusual choice of terms), but using the plural form tends to prompt alertness in the hearer to a greater degree, and points out that the issue is complicated (plural details). Dec 21, 2019 at 10:46
  • @user339660 Your last sentence is a very valuable analysis if true. Can you find supporting evidence from say a linguistics article, and post this as an answer? Sadly, these Google 5grams fail ... Aug 17, 2020 at 11:37
  • to support the claim. These 3-grams on the other hand seem to suggest that some move towards plural-form usage if not true countification (??'They took six actions to ensure ...'). Aug 17, 2020 at 11:41

2 Answers 2


I think "attention to detail" indicates a skill or trait that you show broadly in your life. I would only use "attention to details" if I were referring to a specific incident or project, and probably only in the context of paying attention to THE details.


This is simply due to context or semantics. For example the word communication usually refers to content and the word communications usually refers to the conduit.

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