# difference between "analytic" and "analytical" defined?

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• 09-Aug-2012, 14:51
dbabic
difference between "analytic" and "analytical" defined?
Hello,

I noticed that the scientific community is using "analytic" and "analytical" interchangeably and I was wondering about the difference (you did have a thread years back about this, but conclusion). Other similar adjective combinations ("mystic/mystical", "magic/magical", and "electric/electrical") sometimes are and sometimes are not used interchangeably. I believe there that -ic and -ical endings add a subtle, but different meaning to the adjective.

I am an electrical engineer who spent many years in patent writing, claim construction, and legal interpretation of patents where the preciseness of the meaning of ordinary English words matters a great deal. I feel that a mathematical formula utilizing elementary mathematical functions may be used as an "analytic approximation" rather than an "analytical approximation" for the same reason that "electrical engineering" sounds right and "electric engineering" not.

Here is my interpretation of the difference: The difference between -ic and -ical endings lies with whether the subject "is" or "possesses/pertains to/relates to" the stated character(istics).

For example, engineering cannot be electric in the same sense as electric current (the current IS electric) and so it has to be "electrical" as it related to electric phenomena.

A mystical person has the characteristics of a mystic, but may not necessarily be a mystic.

An analytic approximation is an approximation that can be written as a formula involving elementary mathematical functions. Analytical approximation would be an approximation that has the characteristics of an analytic approximation, but may not necessarily be it.

Any thoughts on this?

Thanks
• 12-Aug-2012, 14:21
cuneiform
Re: difference between "analytic" and "analytical" defined?
Hi,

Your question is quite important though it could not be answered so far in a sense one would go into details here on one's own. I would suggest consulting the OED before all, incl. the article for -AL. There bis no better source in all practical cases.
• 25-Aug-2012, 06:24
Academic Writing
Re: difference between "analytic" and "analytical" defined?
That is a great question dbabic. You've got me wondering now and I'll have to put some more thought into it. I see your reasoning though and it seems logical to me.

I do agree with cuneiform that the first stop should be OED (Or Merriam-Webster if you're writing in U.S. English). Of course that only takes us so far and I see that your question is geared toward nailing down a more global guideline.

If you're debating between a spelling of a particular word though, you could also check some style guides or recent articles in respected journals in your field to get a sense of what the standard usage is. I agree with you that the two words are used interchangeably in many cases (I tend to edit in the social sciences, but, for instance, I have seen both "analytic framework" and "analytical framework.").

In general though, I like your distinction between being able to be written as a function and having the characteristics of analysis and see no reason, at least without deeper thought, for deviating from that logic.

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