dot the i’s and cross the t’s


dot the i’s and cross the t’s


  • to take care of every detail, even minor ones
  • be meticulous and precise
  • to do something very carefully and in a lot of detail
  • complete the job paying attention to the details

Example Sentences

  1. I had dotted all the i’s and crossed the t’s, so I wondered why my application was rejected.
  2. Before taking the project to the CEO, let’s make sure we dot the i’s and cross the t’s.
  3. She writes highly accurate reports – she always dots her i’s and crosses her t’s.
  4. The negotiations are nearly finished, but we still have to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.
  5. Why can’t Jerry dot the i’s and cross the t’s? I always find mistakes in his work.
  6. Your instructor is a tough grader, be sure to dot your ‘i’s and cross your ‘t’s on your research.


Be meticulous and precise, fill in all the particulars, as in Laura had dotted all the i’s and crossed the t’s, so she wondered what she’d done wrong . This expression presumably began as an admonition to school children to write carefully and is sometimes shortened. William Make peace Thackeray had it in a magazine article (Scribner’s Magazine, 1849):

“I have . . . dotted the i’s.” [Mid-1800s].

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It is used in Nicholas Nickelby by Charles Dickens, which was published in 1839.

- Iain Oliver March 19, 2023

Crossing T's is a naval expression. I found this in Wikipedia under the story of the Confederate ship, the Alabama.

- Robin Dicey January 2, 2023

In cursive, dots and crossive occur four times in the alphabet, i,t,j,x, thus meaning you have to GO BACK and finish the work to make it complete.

- Anonymous March 20, 2021

Our modern phrase is an Anglicization of an ancient Hebrew expression as used by Jesus in Matthew 5:18. "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." The "jot", iota (as in, "not one iota"), or yod, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the tittle is the smallest stroke in a Hebrew letter.

- Bob Enyart August 11, 2020

I'm multilingual and I'm from Europe, I've come across this idiom in both latin and german based idioms. In Portuguese they say 'pôr os pontos nos i's" or in dutch "puntjes op de i zetten". It's interesting how language has evolved.

- Sophie July 8, 2020

I think it might be to do with that when people were writing they left the dots on the i’s & the crosses on the t’s until end. I think this not just because of the idiom but also because if u have a look at how the writing evolves the f turns into a over large S - much to the confusion of anyone reading a document from back then. I think this is another example of people deciding not to cross a letter (like a t) that then became a style. As a writer myself dotting i & crossing t is an irregular movement that stops my flow. Doing it at the end the strokes are easy & means u check your work as well. Occasionally u miss a letter, though I’m sure this gets better with practice!

- I write with a calligraphy pen March 31, 2020

Met a couple people from London who say they have never heard the expression. Apparently started here in the States.

- Ian Matheson October 31, 2018

It is probably from the early 1800's. In addition to the 1849 article me tioned above, it was also used in I.K. Marvel's "Revieries of a Bachelor", published in 1950. If it referenced by two publications at the same time, it was probably in wide use already. "That scrawling PostScript at the bottom, with it's i's so carefully dotted, and it's gigantic t's so carefully crossed".

- Jeff Barrans July 11, 2018

My theory: the origin for only the two letters t and i is when proof reading writer's manuscripts. Assume the word is 'twitter' and the t and i are not cross and dotted.

- Rajeev February 18, 2014

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