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Old 09-18-2012, 03:50 PM   #4
Basia Halliop
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 711
Canada
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Re: Word accuracy vs. precision

Personally, I think they both matter, though I agree that accuracy matters far far more.

If the word you choose is inaccurate, then precision is completely irrelevant and meaningless either way.

BUT, once you've got accuracy covered, than precision can make an important additional difference. Of course, sometimes you don't want to be precise, you want to keep your words intentionally a bit general, but other times you want to really get right onto an exact meaning. Sometimes being too vague is confusing, even if it's accurate.

(If anyone is unclear on the difference, accuracy is more about something (a word or a measurement) being right or wrong, while precision is how exact it is. So if an elephant actually weighs 3.452 tonnes it's obviously better to say this elephant weighs 'somewhere between two and five tonnes' (accurate but imprecise) vs saying it weighs 145.73 kg (very precise but totally inaccurate). On the other hand, sometimes it's useful to get more precise (e.g. between 3.4 and 3.5 tonnes)).

In writing accuracy would mean if the word even means what you think it means, precision would be if the idea it expresses is more vague or more specific. So I don't think precision is at all meaningless or unimportant, it's just that it absolutely must come a step down the list after accuracy.
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