“If I were to prescribe one process in the training of men which is fundamental to success in any direction, it would be thoroughgoing training in the habit of accurate observation. It is a habit which every one of us should be seeking ever more to perfect” (Eugene G. Grace).
THE LATIN VERB CURARE MEANT “TO CARE FOR.” From it we get several English words, such as “care,” “cure,” and “curator.” We also get the word “accurate,” which literally means “done with care.” So if “accuracy” is one of our values, several things will happen.
(1) We will describe things accurately. An accurate statement is one that conforms to fact. It is consistent with reality. It should be obvious, then, that our words should be as accurate as we can make them. When we describe something we know or saw or experienced, the report should be trustworthy. And when we relate something that somebody else said or did, the report should be factual. Accuracy is nothing more than simple, everyday truthfulness. Accurate people go to great lengths not to pass on false information . . . about anything.
(2) We will adhere to worthy standards as closely as possible. At the gas pump, if the meter says you bought 10.5 gallons, you expect that reading to be accurate, i.e., to conform to the governmental standard of weights and measures that defines a gallon. But there are many other standards that need to be adhered to, and the most important are those that govern our relationships with other people. Those around us need to know that our conduct toward them will be accurate, in that it conforms closely to the standards of morality.
(3) We will be meticulous in our work. I once applied for a job that involved some very detailed, precise work. In the interview, I was asked how important accuracy was to me, and the questioner’s tone of voice clearly indicated that if I was not a meticulous person, I would not be happy in this work. When it comes to being meticulous, some people overdo it, obviously. But most of us would profit from an extra dose of accuracy in what we do: being more careful in our work.
Basically, then, accuracy is a function of honesty. Both traits have to do with factualness — and that is something we dare not neglect.
“Accuracy is the twin brother of honesty; inaccuracy is a near kin to falsehood” (Nathaniel Hawthorne).