I am looking for a word or multiple words to describe someone who is very (perhaps even 'overly') concerned about the fine details of something. It could be describing someone who is a perfectionist, or someone who is overly strict with obeying rules, or someone who wants everything to be 'prim and proper'. I recall knowing a couple of words with these connotations but they have completely slipped my mind.

closed as not constructive by Jeff Atwood Feb 26 '12 at 23:22

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    Well, now I can use a thesaurus, after looking at the suggestions in the answers. Its hard to use the thesaurus when you don't have a starting point in mind. – M.A Feb 26 '12 at 15:12
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    I agree with the OP. Because of this question, at least four people stopped to think, and that is a beautiful thing. – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Feb 26 '12 at 15:25
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    Searching a reverse dictionary for "someone who is very concerned about the fine details" returns punctilious, fastidious, meticulous, and many more. There's your starting point right there. And it's on our list of tools, too. Besides, you can always just start with thesaurus.com/browse/particular, which is right in the title of your question. – RegDwigнt Feb 26 '12 at 16:43
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    I was looking for terms encapsulating this very concept and found satisfying answers thanks to the question. Yes, I tried a thesaurus, but as pointed out by the OP, they aren't easily utilized in this instance. And I sure as hell did not know such a thing as a "reverse dictionary" existed, but I'm glad I know now. In any event, I'm not convinced there was reasonable justification to close this, and, as I've implied, it seems to have been worthwhile since it helped this user. – tjbtech May 12 '17 at 0:31

10 Answers 10


A pedantic person gives too much attention to formal rules or small details.

A meticulous person is very careful and pays great attention to every detail.

A fastidious person gives too much attention to small details and wants everything to be correct and perfect.

  • I'm mad at myself for not recalling 'meticulous'. Although i needed a stronger word than that, a thesaurus search for meticulous could have given me the others. God damned mental block. – M.A Feb 26 '12 at 17:16
  • +1 Also, there's one word for a pedantic person: pedant. – John N Feb 26 '12 at 19:38


a : fussy about small details

He lacked the patience to deal with such persnickety tasks as hanging wallpaper.

  • Whoa, thats a good find. :) – M.A Feb 26 '12 at 15:14
  • As soon as I read your question title, it hit me in the head. :) – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Feb 26 '12 at 16:04
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    Persnickety is just a quaint US colloquialism of the original pernickety. – FumbleFingers Feb 26 '12 at 16:38
  • @FumbleFingers You make it seem that pernickety isn’t colloquial, but it is. And p’ick’y is just the quaint polycontraction of either of them. – tchrist Feb 26 '12 at 16:49
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    @FumbleFingers You must be looking at the OED2, not the OED3. The OED2 does not label pernickety as anything in particular, but the OED3 does certainly label it "colloq. (orig. Sc.).". As for p’ick’y, I can only imagine how much your leg must be aching right now. – tchrist Feb 26 '12 at 17:52

nitpicker if you want the connotation of overly perfectionist

  • I think nitpicker has the correct emphasis on the "overly". – pkoch Feb 26 '12 at 19:36

The closest word I can think of is

showing great attention to detail or correct behavior: he was punctilious in providing every amenity for his guests.

A punctilious person is one who lets no detail of a task or enterprise escape scrutiny and correction.


If you're looking for a noun, how about a fussbudget?

  • The association with 'fussy', that's certainly a handy word. – M.A Feb 26 '12 at 16:56

Since you specifically ask for a noun rather than an adjective, I have these: fusspot, pedant, perfectionist and stickler.


I'd like to propose pedant. It's a person who is overly concerned with formal rules, excessively concerned with formalism and precision.

The adjective is pedantic.

  • Yes, that covers the 'rules abiding' thing. – M.A Feb 26 '12 at 15:14
  • The word pedant reminds me of that albatross charm pendant which my grade school English teacher always had danging from her neck as we read “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. And pedantry sound like the act of inappropriately hanging around with children, just as pedagogy is inappropriately oggling children. Pedology is studying the ground that children walk or ride bikes on. And palaeopedology is studying old farts. – tchrist Feb 27 '12 at 1:54
  • You need to think about this word a little less :) – M.A Feb 27 '12 at 5:54

I haven't seen someone offer the word anal (or anal-retentive):

The term anal-retentive (also anally retentive), commonly abbreviated to anal, is used conversationally to describe a person who pays such attention to detail that the obsession becomes an annoyance to others, potentially to the detriment of the anal-retentive person.

  • @tchrist It does on that Wikipedia link. – LarsTech Feb 27 '12 at 3:45
  • This term I had in mind, but it wasn't what I was looking for. For one thing, it is too colloquial for the article I was writing, and also it seems to me that the usage of this word is focused less on the importance of small details and more on the attitude of the person. – M.A Feb 27 '12 at 5:50
  • Anyone who says just "anal" in my hearing is always responded to with "wait, do you mean anal expulsive or anal retentive? " Assertively. In front of any company in any setting. Because I'm not the one mentioning anuses in that company in the first place. Calling someone "anal" is no better than calling him "rectal" or "vaginal". – ErikE Feb 27 '12 at 7:50

A Micro-Manager... I.E. My Boss

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    Not really a good answer, but I have to upvote for 'My Boss'. – Tim Lymington supports Monica Feb 26 '12 at 21:43
  • Actually, it's a decent alternative, if the word is being used to describe someone in the work environment. Merriam-Webster's defines the verb micromanage as to manage especially with excessive control or attention to details; Macmillan defines micromanager as someone who wants to control every part of a business or system in a way that is not necessary or useful. Hyphen unneeded. @TimLymington: don't we all work for micromanagers? Sure seems that way... – J.R. Feb 27 '12 at 9:41


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    Did you know that you could use a random/nonexistent HTML tag to meet the minimum length requirements instead of writing these visible symbols? For example, <aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa>. It will not be visible unless you format it as code – Armen Ծիրունյան Feb 26 '12 at 17:18
  • @ArmenTsirunyan What visible symbols? I used U+2060 WORD JOINER, which is defined to be a zero-width non-breaking space. Anything apart from a text editor in "show invisible characters mode" that shows you something for a code point which The Unicode Standard deliberately defines to be a zero-width space, and thus invisible, is buggy. A regular user agent should not be doing that? What are you using? This isn’t something from Microsoft again, is it? – tchrist Feb 26 '12 at 17:54
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    I am using google chrome with default settings... – Armen Ծիրունյան Feb 26 '12 at 18:25
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    @ArmenTsirunyan That’s peculiar, because Google is one of the most Unicode-savvy institutions I know. I’d checked with both Opera and Safari, and didn’t see anything for U+2060, so used it. Hm. – tchrist Feb 26 '12 at 18:39
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    @ArmenTsirunyan It's not showing up in my version of Google Chrome (v17.0.963.56 on Mac OS X Snow Leopard). – Ben Hocking Feb 26 '12 at 18:48

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