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  1. #1
    jctgf is offline Key Member
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    subtleness and subtlety

    hi,
    are these words synonyms?
    if so, what is the common usage?
    if not, the difference seems to be very "subtle" and I wonder what it is.
    thanks.

  2. #2
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    stuartnz is offline Senior Member
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    Re: subtleness and subtlety

    Although I'm not a teacher, I would say that "subtleness" is not in very common usage at all. A comparison of Google hits for example, shows around 81,000 for "subtleness" and around 3.65 million for "subtlety". The OED's entry for "subtleness" consists of single word in defintion - subtlety. This strengthens my conviction that they are effectively exact synonyms, and that the optimal choice would "subtlety" over "subtleness".

  3. #3
    jctgf is offline Key Member
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    Re: subtleness and subtlety

    Quote Originally Posted by stuartnz View Post
    Although I'm not a teacher, I would say that "subtleness" is not in very common usage at all. A comparison of Google hits for example, shows around 81,000 for "subtleness" and around 3.65 million for "subtlety". The OED's entry for "subtleness" consists of single word in defintion - subtlety. This strengthens my conviction that they are effectively exact synonyms, and that the optimal choice would "subtlety" over "subtleness".
    hi,
    my teacher had to check the dictionary for "subtleness" while reading my composition. then I came across "subtlety" on this forum.
    thanks.

  4. #4
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    stuartnz is offline Senior Member
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    Re: subtleness and subtlety

    I think it should be stressed that there's nothing wrong with "subtleness" as a word, and that it is possible to think of circumstances in which it might be a better fit aesthetically. For example, if you wanted to avoid a possibly twee rhyming sound, you could say "with subtleness and delicacy" rather than "with subtlety and delicacy". Of course, judgments about aesthetics are subjective, but having the two words available does give you the choice of le mot juste, as we say in English.

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