SCRUPULOUS [SKROO-pyuh-luh s]: careful, precise, exact to a fault


There’s something commendable about a person who is neat and orderly.  But when that characteristic is carried to an extreme, it becomes something similar to an obsession. It is the difference between being thorough and being scrupulous.

Scrupulous is a word that comes from Latin and is first found in Middle English in the 15th century.  Its Latin meaning is pretty much the same as that which we use in English.   It is about strict attention to detail and unwillingness to accept mediocrity in a task.

A scrupulous person is, by definition, one who has scruples.  That means that the person is deeply committed to standards and is unwavering in intention to follow them.  You can see how the term leads to scrupulous.  Like anything else, it is easy for a habit to become an obsession.

I’m intrigued by the illustration I chose for today with a quote from Julian Green, a 20th century American writer who I have never heard of before today.  That may speak more to my limited access to 20th century authors than to his importance, however.    As I read the quote, Green is cautioning that great novels require some degree of spontaneity and risk.  In fact, it may be in the unplanned, semi-cautious moments that the real beauty of a novel comes to light.

It is important to have some sense of direction in writing, and in some cases it is even important to have a plan.  But if the plan becomes rigid and leaves no room for fantasy, the book is likely to become boring and stilted.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also point out that the more common use of the base word scruple is, perhaps, the negative form of scrupulous, unscrupulous.  Probably more people recognize that word and its meaning than the word scrupulous, itself.   Does that say something about the demographics surrounding personalities in our society?  Perhaps.


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