The Devil is in the Details

Meanings of “The Devil is in the Details”

The phrase “the devil is in the details” means that although the details of a plan might look insignificant, they might contain hidden issues which could threaten the overall viability.

Origin of “The Devil is in the Details”

The phrase “the devil is in the details” has been derived from a German proverbDer liebe Gott steckt im detail,” which translates as “God is in the detail.” However, its first citation has appeared in 1963 in the work of Richard Mayne titled as “The Community of Europe,” which goes thus; “On the principle that ‘the devil is in the details’, what should have been a merely formal occasion developed into a debate about the Community’s official languages and the site of its headquarters.” The phrase replaces devil with God here to show the development of the official language of the community in question.

Examples from Literature

Example #1

The Devil Is in the Details by Santi Tafarella

The Lord God:
When we are awake
And unhurried
We understand
That whether a snake
Or a river
Slithers past
Both are an instant
The Serpent:
A snake is winding
To the river
Or the river is
Winding to a snake
Matters to the frog.

This poem addresses God, stating when we observe things intimately, we can protect ourselves from unexpected dangers. To make her meanings clear to the readers, she refers to the example of a snake and the river that are both instant and act alike. However, only a wise person can differentiate between them. Therefore, the phrase has been implied as an extended metaphor in the text as the speaker wants us not to ignore the facts that may seem unimportant.

Example #2

The Devil Is In The Detail by Sandra Feldman

The Devil is dancing,
And singing his tune,
Announcing the Shamedom,
Of weirdoes and loons,

Red is his color,
The color of blood,
Expect nothing good,
From this cowardly flood.

No standards are upheld,
No values remain,
‘Destruction of morals’
Is the name of the game.

The 21st century,
I’m ashamed to be part,
Of a social revolution,
That has lost all its heart.

I’m ashamed to be living,
In a social, dark swamp,
Where ‘Anything Goes’,
And all ‘leaders’ are TRAMPS!

In this poem, the poet speaks about the filthy game of the Devil that brought destruction to the world. No one listened to him when he was singing and announcing the names of silly and foolish persons intended to carry out his mission. Unfortunately, at that time, we fail to understand that the game had no standards, ethics, or morals; the ground was rather set to push the world toward a situation where we, as humans, will be ashamed. Unfortunately, the Devil played his part well as the social revolution we see in the world has lost its real spirit. The speaker regrets being a part of the 21st century, where the true meaning of leadership is lost with resultant sufferings and pain. Therefore, it is necessary to look into things minutely to avoid uncertainties. The phrase has been used as a metaphor for deception and the Devil’s work.

Example #3

The Devil is in the Details: Understanding the Causes of Policy Specificity and Ambiguity by Rachel Vansickle-Ward

Keeping the policy of the social setting in the United States in the center, the book interprets in detail how laws are interpreted and applied in a specific social setting. The writer intends to figure out how the wording of legislation could incorporate specifically to ambiguous. When policies are of high profile, the feature becomes ambiguous and unclear. On the contrary, when the policies are of a low profile, they seem to be detailed. The phrase used in the title of the book shows that only details could demonstrate the real policy implementation which means that the phrase shows its use as a denotation.

Example #4

The Devil Is in the Details by Michael Fullan, Mary Jean Gallagher

The two genius minds introduce us to the concept that the world needs to be transformed; we require systematic transformation and an ethical framework to make this world a better place to live. It is through this book the authors throw light on the ways that can help us transform the education system – the base of individual and collective transformation. The book offers us detailed cases and analyses of successful systems, proper leadership guides, and strategies addressing well-being, excellence, and equity. Therefore, identifying weak strategies and flaws present in the education system in this book shows the denotative use of the phrase.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “I asked Tom to make sure he reads the contract carefully before putting his stamp on it. I always believed that the devil is always in details.”

Example #2: “To the world, our economy is flourishing, but the devil is in the details. No one sees that, hence it all looks rosy on the outside.”

Example #3: “The newly appointed art teacher assigned a new task to each pupil. Although they got excited as the project seemed easy to them, they didn’t realize that the devil is in the details.”

Example #4: “I thought I would be able to finalize the report in just a few hours, but it took me two days to complete the task. I kept forgetting that the devil is always in details.”

Example #5: “Although I have penned out the basic layout of the plan, which seemed like a child’s play, although I am wary that the Devil is in the details.”