What word would you use to descripe a step of a process that should be combined with another step because it is too small to be its 'own' step?


  1. Create a copy of the file.

  2. Rename the file.

  3. Make the file name "hello.txt".

  4. Open the file.. blah blah blah...

You could consider step 2 and 3 to be a single step. What would you describe step 3 as, considering it is a miniscule step and could be combined with 2?

Kind of a bad example... I'll try to think of another if I can.

Hopefully you understand what I mean by this.

  • A half-step maybe?
    – Bidella
    Mar 7, 2012 at 0:03
  • Well, 2 and 3 really are a single step - all you've done is state it in different words. In a more meaningful example, you could perhaps say 2: Rename the file. 2a: Right-click on the filename. 2b: Left-click on "Rename". 2c: Type the new name "hello.txt". 2d: Press the <return> key. That would make it clear you are enumerating sub-tasks / sub-steps. Mar 7, 2012 at 0:05
  • How would I explain to somebody that the step is too small? Maybe there isn't a word for it and I am going crazy for no reason, but it seems like I should be able to say: "That step is xyz" or "That is a xyz step"
    – MrZander
    Mar 7, 2012 at 0:18
  • That step is too pedantic.
    – Jim
    Mar 7, 2012 at 5:54

6 Answers 6


You could try to describe the fact that they've been broken up too much by saying they're too granular.

You could point out the unnecessary wordiness by saying the steps are too verbose.

Personally I would just point out that step 2 is incomplete because it doesn't contain enough information for the person to execute it. They need to know what to call the file in order to successfully execute the step.

  • I like granular. I guess a word for this specific purpose doesn't exist, but that sounds nice. Thank you.
    – MrZander
    Mar 7, 2012 at 8:15

It's just a metaphor, and probably best reserved for a scientific audience, but I've heard people use the word subatomic to express the concept you describe. In other words:

I'd combine Steps 2 and 3; Step 3 seems rather subatomic.

I consulted several online dictionaries, and found these listed as definitions and synonyms for atomic: immeasurably small, minute, infinitesimal.

Computer scientists have latched onto this adjective when describing process steps:

atomic operation (computer science): An operation that cannot be broken up into smaller parts; atomic implies indivisibility and irreducibility.


I would call 3 a sub-step of 2, but really they could co-exist:

  1. Create a copy of the file
  2. Save the copy as "Hello.txt"
  3. Open the file... blah

Extra steps that are too fine-grained may be considered redundant, or perhaps insignificant ("not important, consequential, or having a noticeable effect"), inconsequential, or negligible ("able to be ignored or excluded from consideration; too small or unimportant to be of concern"). More figuratively, you could refer to them as small fry ("things of relatively little consequence, importance, or value"), frivolous ("of little weight or importance; not worth notice; slight"), an eyeblink, or homeopathic.


In physics, quantum is the "minimum amount of a physical quantity which can exist" (OED), so one possibility might be to call the step a "sub-quantum" step.

Applying the same rationale, another possibility is "sub-incremental".


You could use the word exiguous

very small in size or amount.

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