As above -- I'm looking for suitable phrases, metaphors or idioms -- standard or invented -- for keeping the big picture in mind while picking out selected details.

This is related to a previous question of mine where I was trying to formulate an extended cherry-picking metaphor. But I'm not too happy with the outcome. It sounds very awkward. I'm hoping there are better idioms out there. So far I've got:

If you're going to cherry-pick, you've got to size up the whole tree first.

Or -- not quite so awkward but clearly a mixed metaphor.

Cherry picking is all very well, but try not to lose sight of the big picture.

Any suggestions welcome

Edit: The original is a text in German where the writer wants to say: It's all well and good if you want to choose the functions of (say) a program that suit your needs but you should also know about the other functions. The metaphor works in German. (It's all very well to pick out the raisins, but you should still keep the whole cake in sight.)

  • If you want to choose the best, you need to know (about) the rest Jun 21, 2020 at 14:34
  • Oh! Quite like that. Did you make it up or is it a standard phrase?
    – S Conroy
    Jun 21, 2020 at 14:35
  • 1
    I just made it up. In all modesty, I've always been quite good at that sort of thing. Jun 21, 2020 at 14:36
  • Thanks. I'm going to use it. It sounds like it should be a proverb. Feel free to answer properly for upvote.
    – S Conroy
    Jun 21, 2020 at 14:38
  • If you want a metaphor to be apt, then we need a real-life example. It would be possible to select ripe cherries even if you had tunnel vision and couldn't see the whole tree. P.S. Are you asking for a well-known phrase? Are we supposed to invent new ones? Does it have to be about cherries? EDIT, I see @Bruce Murray has forestalled me. Nevertheless please clarify in future questions - Thanks Jun 21, 2020 at 14:46

2 Answers 2


At least in the US, you could say don't miss the forest for the trees.

From Merriam-Webster's definition of miss the forest for the trees:

: to not understand or appreciate a larger situation, problem, etc., because one is considering only a few parts of it

In other words, don't focus so much on a detail that you lose track of the overall issue.

  • This is useful +1, although it doesn't 100% cover the cherry-picking idea.
    – S Conroy
    Jun 21, 2020 at 15:08
  • @SConroy Cherry picking wasn't necessarily a criterion for the answer. It was just an example of a possible idiom—which wasn't liked. I answered based on the title of the question and the first paragraph. (After all, the original German metaphor seems to involved raisins and cakes …) Jun 21, 2020 at 15:10
  • Yah... Perhps I should added that raisins in the German idiom are considered something like cherries in the cherry-picking idiom. For example you might like bits of a religion, but not the whole package and be accused of picking out the raisins.
    – S Conroy
    Jun 21, 2020 at 17:33
  • By the way this idea helped: I'm considering 'cherry-picking is all very well, but don't forget to step back and admire the whole cherry tree.'
    – S Conroy
    Jun 22, 2020 at 10:31

How about separate the wheat from the chaff? From Lexico:

separate (or sort) the wheat from the chaff: Distinguish valuable people or things from worthless ones.

One could interpret this to mean "from the big picture -- wheat and chaff -- 'cherry-pick' what is valuable -- the wheat."

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