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Fixing a software bug does not always require difficult analysis.

A native speaker told me that "difficult" isn't an appropriate adjective to apply to "analysis" in the context of this sentence, and suggested using "idiomatically natural alternatives" such as thorough / in-depth / deep / painstaking / detailed / careful.

The problem is that these alternatives convey the meaning of "detail in analysis", which is not exactly the same as "difficulty in analysis".

Could you propose any idiomatic alternatives that convey the meaning of "difficulty in analysis"? Would, for example, "complicated analysis" work here?

Thank you.

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    difficult is very idiomatic. :) any complicated analysis.
    – Lambie
    Nov 28, 2022 at 14:43
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    No, I think "difficult analysis" sounds really bad. The term difficult does not. You can say: "is not always difficult" OR "does not always require complicated analysis".
    – Lambie
    Nov 28, 2022 at 14:48
  • The takeaway is that the word analysis is not needed. :)
    – Lambie
    Nov 28, 2022 at 14:53
  • It's an interesting question; I don't think "difficult analysis" is too bad, but maybe it doesn't fit your needs. It might help to think (1) who is your audience - programmers, managers, marketing types, ordinary members of the public, etc and (2) what exactly are the qualities of the analysis - does it require particular skills and expertise, does it take a long time, is it easy to make mistakes, is it physically/emotionally/psychologically arduous, etc.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 28, 2022 at 17:50
  • You've deleted your earlier question where I raised this, but I did specifically allow for the possibility that you might want to explicitly call attention to the "onerous effort" involved in thorough / in-depth / deep / detailed / careful / ... analysis - that's why I included painstaking in my list of "more idiomatic" alternatives. See this chart showing how common it is ("difficult analysis" is too rare to chart). Nov 28, 2022 at 18:38

4 Answers 4

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"Detailed" and "difficult" mean two different things. A task can be easy, yet time-consuming, so one might say it was detailed but not difficult. 'Detail' is about the granularity of the work (and by extension, the time it takes) while 'difficulty' is about the skill level required and possibly the risk of error.

So, if you want to talk about the complexity, consider saying:

  • a detailed analysis
  • an in-depth analysis

Or, you could instead say:

  • Fixing a software bug need not be complex

Conversely, if you are trying to say that it is difficult:

  • Fixing a software bug need not be difficult.
  • Fixing a software bug need not be hard.
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  • @billeck as a phrase, "difficult analysis" is perfectly idiomatic, but it isn't correct here. If you label the analysis as 'difficult' then it suggests there is an easier one, eg "don't do a difficult analysis, do an easy one". What you're trying to say is that the analysis required doesn't have to be difficult. If indeed that is what you want to say.
    – Astralbee
    Nov 28, 2022 at 16:00
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IMHO your native speaker is wrong. If the bug was a simple logic error "If this then that ... oh but it didn't! The if test is the wrong .. easy fix". But if finding the bug required a lot of code tracing and delving into databases to find wrong information and so on, then it was difficult.
Most of the suggested "idiomatically natural alternatives" could be used instead, but as you say they convey more the idea of detailed rather than difficult. Of course the process could be both.
I think you could have answered your own question, complicated is a suitable alternative. A quick google for "synonym difficult" throws up this page as the first hit - https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/difficult
Amongst other words listed, tough, demanding or laborious. To some extent it depends on context, how much effort was required to fix the bug, if it took a long time how much was just routine.

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In English, simple is best in contexts such as these (computing, etc.): The simplest here would be:

The term difficult does not. You can say:

  • Fixing a software bug is not always difficult. OR

  • Fixing a software bug does not always require complicated analysis.

The second option is very heavy and would probably be edited to read like the second by a good (human) editor.

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I agree with others and would probably use "fixing a software bug is not always difficult".

But if you did want to retain the idea of analyzing code then consider "The analysis needed to fix a software bug is not always difficult".

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  • Good rewrite. :)
    – Lambie
    Nov 28, 2022 at 20:04

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