Idiom: "I's" dotted, "t's" crossed?

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Hi guys,

Please, does anyone know the origin of the idiom "dot the i's and cross the t's"? This is very strange looking idiom and I have absolutely no idea why it means do something very carefully and in a lot of
detail...Please, what that acronyms I's and T's stands for? Does anyone know it? Answers.com page is just saying that this idiom presumably began as an admonition to schoolchildren to write carefully and is sometimes shortened. I came across to this idiom in an Without a Trace TV show, where this idiom was used by one member of the missing person squad.

Boss of the FBI bureau: Any...procedural irregularities that would adversely affect the prosecution of the suspects.

FBI employe: Well, you know me boss. "I's" dotted, "t's" crossed. It's all in my report.

many thanks in advance guys.

Best Regards

JCD
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Approved answer (verified by )
When you are writing in longhand, in "script" or "cursive" you keep writing letters and don't stop to dot the i's or the j's, or cross the t's. You go back and do that after you write the entire word. Sometimes, you write so fast that you forget to go back and do that. If you have made sure that all the i's are dotted and all the t's are crossed, you have performed your task carefully and made sure you did not miss anything.

It is almost never used as an actualy admonition to school children. It's used instead as a metaphor to mean that you did absolutely everything that is supposed to be done, usually as it relates to following a specific procedure.

A similar metaphor: I made sure nothing is going to fall through the cracks.
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hmm...very interesting. Thanks GG for very clear answer.

have a nice day.

Best Regards

JCD
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Anonymous:
i's and t's are not acronums.  They are the plural form of the letters i and t.  The reference about school children refers to writing in a hurry and forgetting to put a dot over the letter i and to remember to cross the t.  It admonishes against carlessness and the reminder that seemingly small details can be important.
Anonymous:
I think the etymology of the idiom - dot your i's and cross your t's -- is actually Biblical or otherwise originated as a religious reference of some kind. I remember my late father-in-law, a Methodist preacher in Virginia, describing the origin of the idiom in those terms, but unfortunately don't remember the details. Have been trying to find the answer on-line without success, but will keep trying (as well as check with mother-in-law) and will report back.

RAD
Anonymous:
Very nice & absolutely correct answer. I read this idiom 1st time in my ITIL book & referred net. & I am thankful u resolved it in 30 seconds.
Thanks again.
Anonymous:
You're referring to Matthew 5:18: a phrase first used in William Tindale's translation of the New Testament in 1526:
One iott or one tytle of the lawe shall not scape.

The King James Version put it this way: For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Both the "jot" and "tittle" refer to very small parts of the written word. "Jot" is derived from the Greek "iota", meaning the letter "i", which is derived from the Hebrew "yod", referring to the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet. "Tittle" refers to any small pen stroke like an accent mark over a letter or the dot over the eye.

Both are used as analogies of very tiny, seemingly insignificant things that actually are rather important.
Anonymous:
When writing in script, if one does not cross their t's and dot their i's, the uncrossed 't' can be misread as an 'l' and the undotted 'i' can be misread as an 'e' or even an 'l'. Hence this idiom is implying that a seemingly minor error can in effect become a major one.
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