My mother used to do a lot of needlepoint. The front of the needlepoint is what people look at, so how the reverse looks is usually not very important. However, she told me that some needlepointers were so careful that it was hard to tell the front from the back.

I sometimes find myself doing something similar with coding: obsessing over the layout and look of the source code even though no one but myself is ever going to see the source.

Is there a word or phrase that describes this? Something meaning "wanting the the hidden portions of construction to look as good as the visible ones"?

Of course, there are often practical reasons why this state might be desirable: the more orderly computer code is, the easier it is to debug and maintain. Similarly, there might be times when the front and back of something are visible. But I am interested in the case where the back or inside is not visible but you want to make it look nice anyway.

  • 1
    Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Some editors (me, for example) have the same problem.
    – user21497
    Oct 31, 2012 at 11:28
  • 4
    I have this with LEGO. I can't stand it when something that looks like this from the front looks like this from the behind. Or how even the official R2D2 is green and red and yellow and orange on the inside. That just isn't right.
    – RegDwigнt
    Oct 31, 2012 at 11:51
  • 1
    You do know what was inside the real on-set R2D2, don't you?
    – Pitarou
    Oct 31, 2012 at 12:42
  • Just mentioning. The example you gave may not be appropriate. Clean coding is part of a developer's discipline.
    – Kris
    Oct 31, 2012 at 15:23

5 Answers 5


What you are describing is perfectionism.

Definition of perfectionism from ODO
[mass noun]
- refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.

Definition of perfection from ODO
[mass noun]
- the state or quality of being perfect
- a person or thing considered to be perfect
- the action or process of improving something until it is faultless

  • Interestingly enough, today's Wall Street Journal ran a piece on perfectionists, and pointed to Steve Jobs as an example, with this caption: "at least at one point in his career, [he] spent money to make even his computers' innards beautiful" [emphasis added]. R&B singer James Brown "was known to fine his backup singers if they didn't have a clean, pressed shirt, [or] a shoe shine." Not that you were needing additional support, but I thought the article's examples backed up your answer quite nicely.
    – J.R.
    Oct 31, 2012 at 22:59

The word I would suggest is meticulous. According to Collins:

meticulous: extremely or excessively careful about details; scrupulous or finicky

Wordnik lists this definition:

meticulous: characterized by very precise, conscientious attention to details.

Although this word doesn't specifically differentiate between the seen and unseen parts of a craft or creation, I do think the attention to detail you described is typically performed by a meticulous person (at least, meticulous in that endeavor).

  • Meticulous is a good choice, but let me tell you that not only needle-pointers check the underside first, the clothes designers do that too and, most significantly, jewelers (or goldsmiths) were the first to do that. To have the fine facade is nothing, it's the underside that matters. To any profession.
    – user69781
    Mar 23, 2014 at 22:24

Particular is a word that came to mind. In this case, the definition is:

a : concerned over or attentive to details : meticulous a very particular gardener

b : nice in taste : fastidious

c : hard to please : exacting

Like J.R., I'm not sure the word specifically differentiates between what is visible and what is not. However, if you're particular about something, you wouldn't stand for a messy interior of whatever the project is.

Another word that might suit the situation is fastidious, mentioned in the definition above.


The first word that came to mind for me was: persnickety. Which I've always thought of as being highly concerned about details beyond what is necessary for functionality. This is very similar to fastidious, but um... more so, to the point of obsession.

However, some people use it as a point of pride. The Tilley Hat company advertises their hats as being made with "Canadian Persnicketiness". I've owned three, lost one, and had another replaced on warranty after 20 years of use when the brim tore away from the hat, no questions asked. So, apparently there's value in being persnickety...


The phrase internal order indicates a level of consistency that extends beyond just the surface appearance.

  • 1
    It may do, but it doesn't describe the desire for that level of consistency and so fails to answer the question.
    – itsbruce
    Oct 31, 2012 at 15:15

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