Exactly  what  is  precision?


Precise Time and Time Interval (PTTI) is the name given to the art and science of determining the correct time of day and maintaining standards of frequency.  As a hobby, it can be taken to many different levels, depending on the hobbyist's investment of time, effort and money.  Many people start out in this hobby by fastidiously keeping their wristwatches and clocks "on time" as nearly as possible.  This naturally leads to a search for more and more accurate time references.  Before long, the hobbyist will discover (or at least suspect) that there are subtle differences in the connotations of the correct time as opposed to the precise or exact time.

Here is a quote from the Funk & Wagnalls Standard Handbook of Synonyms, Antonyms & Prepositions, (Copyright 1947 by Funk & Wagnalls Publishing Company, Inc.)
That which is precise is clearly determined; no more or no less than; scrupulously exact; as, a precise reckoning, the precise instant.  Accurate, correct, definite, exact and precise, all denote absolute conformity to some external standard.  Accurate indicates conformity secured by scrupulous care.  An accurate measurement or account can be verified and found true in all particulars.  The native English word careful carries less sharp certainty; careful stupidity may blunder, accurate stupidity is almost unthinkable.  Exact indicates that which is worked out to the utmost limit of requirement in every respect; precise refers to a like conformity secured by cutting off all excess.  Exact and precise are often interchangeable; but, as filling out is a greater achievement than cutting off, exact is the higher word; we speak of the exact sciences, not of the precise sciences.  Hence, precise has often an invidious meaning, denoting excessive care of petty details; we speak of the martinet as insufferably precise, not insufferably exact.  Something intricately exact and requiring precision and care is nice; as, a nice balance, a nice point in the discussion.

Correct applies to a required or enforced correspondence with a standard.  This is especially seen in the use of the verb; the printers corrects the proof.  That is correct which is free from fault or mistake.  Thus correct is lower in the scale than accurate, exact or precise, which are positive, indicating attainment of the right, while correct is negative, denoting avoidance of the wrong; a composition may be correct, but intolerably dull; to speak of a correct statement or discrimination is to give very mild approval; an accurate statement or an exact discrimination is felt to have some noticeable excellence.

An examination is critical, exact and precise when it delves into minute details.

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Document location http://www.akdart.com/precis.html
Created September 5, 2002.

Entire contents Copyright 2002, 2013 by Andrew K. Dart