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Technical Writers’ Companion

Use accurate when you mean correct, free from error, or true.

Use precise when you mean minutely exact down to a couple of decimal points or sharply defined. Precise also refers to conformance to a strict standard or pattern. Think of precise as a very narrow range of tolerance.

Yes:

This instrument is very accurate. It always shows the correct value.

Yes:

This instrument is precise. It shows the value with a precision of 10 decimals.

Yes:

You can’t be too accurate, but you can be too precise if you exceed the number of significant figures in your calculations.

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