Microspeak: Granular

Today's Microspeak word is granular. Here are some citations.

Please bring your cost estimates at the granularity of 3, 5 or 10 days.

The archive function archives all data older than the date specified. Is there a way to get the archive to be more granular than just a date? Our database covers multiple accounts, and we'd like to choose a different date for each account.

There are about 2000 warnings to be investigated. I've assigned them at component granularity.

Granularity is roughly equivalent to level of detail or unit of separation.

In the first example, the cost estimates should be broken down into units that are 3, 5, or 10 days. In the second example, the request is for the archive function to determine which data to archive based on more than just the item date. In in the third example, the 2000 warnings were group by component and all warnings in a particular component were assigned to a single person.

The term granular is used plenty outside Microsoft, too, especially in the phrase granular control, which you will be relieved to know is also wildly popular at Microsoft. (Remember, Microspeak is not only about words and phrases unique to Microsoft. It also covers words and phrases used inside Microsoft at a rate significantly higher than their usage outside Microsoft.)

There is also a more jargony use of granular when used in conjunction with the verb to get. To get granular means to study in greater detail. And in a peculiar mix of metaphor, the way to get granular is to drill down.

Comments (13)
  1. David Walker says:

    Database and data warehouse-speak also uses the term "grain" to mean (more or less) the lowest level of aggregation, as in "the grain of this summary table is customer purchases by day".

    To "get granular" just sounds silly!

  2. To "get granular" sounds like something you can get in serious trouble for:

    I asked the new receptionist if she wanted to get granular with me.

    The new intern got in trouble for getting granular with the boss'daughter.

  3. alegr1 says:

    Let's get glandular.

  4. dave says:

    Out here in non-MS-land, they say "more granular" when they seem to intend "more finely-grained".

    This seems entirely backwards to me, since that results in a fine powder being considered "more" granular than a bucket of rocks.  And I wouldn't call a powder "granular" at all.

    More to the point, why use a stupidly ambiguous phrase when you can say "more finely-grained"? Or even (gasp) "more detailed", since that's often the actual meaning.

  5. Bob says:

    Very apropos.  I work for a large tech company (market cap roughly .EQ. Microsoft, but a bit older) and I don't hear this term.  However, last night I was in a parent meeting discussing an upcoming visit by foreign students and a biologist said that the discussion was getting "too granular".  It was immediately understandable, but I had been wondering how wide-spread the usage was.

  6. Bradley says:

    Isn't this pretty much the dictionary definition of Granular?  I've always understood it to mean "smaller pieces of the whole".

    gran·u·lar   [gran-yuh-ler]


    1. of the nature of granules; grainy.

    2. composed of or bearing granules or grains.

    3. showing a granulated structure.

  7. xpclient says:

    The Windows shell/UX team does not pay granular attention to detail or backward compatibility any more. :P

  8. GregorD says:

    The Windows shell/UX team does not pay granular attention to … backward compatibility any more. :P

    You can say that again! I set GridGranularity = 16 in WIN.INI and Windows 95 blithely ignores me. What's the world coming to?

  9. Clovis says:

    How about using "I'm going to granular this…" to mean I'm going to break this down into smaller pieces.

  10. sandy says:

    I remember about 70 years ago a note in a university library's comment book saying that graduate needed to do more granular study than the undergraduates did. Being undergraduate louts, we made up a motto, "When the going gets granular, the granular get going."

  11. LessOfThis says:

    This post is scraping the bottom of the barrel. Hey, why not Define barrel? Seriously though, this theme isn't doing it for me. Sorry.

  12. @Clovus

    Granular would appear to be an adjective, with granularity the relevant noun.

    You need to verb the adjective!

    "I'm going to granulate this…"


    "I'm going to granularise this…"

  13. David-T says:

    Microspeak?  I think you'll find "Granular" is just English.

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