Macro vs. Micro – What’s the Difference?

English words can be modified through many different methods. One of these methods is through prefixing. English has many prefixes, some of which refer to units of relative size. These prefixes can often be so similar that they refer to different degrees of the same measurement.

Macro and micro refer to measurements of size but in different directions. One refers to large measurements, and one refers to small measurements.

Continue reading to find out which is which. Macro or micro?

What is the Difference Between Macro and Micro?

In this post, I will compare macro vs. micro. I will use each of these words in at least one example sentence, so you can see it in its proper context.

Plus, I will give you a memory tool that will help you choose either micro or macro for your own writing.

When to Use Macro

macro versus micro meaningWhat does macro mean? Macro is a common English prefix. It one describes something that is larger relative to its unmodified noun.

A macro can also refer to a type of digital image, a set of computer instructions, or a very close-up photograph.

Here are some examples,

  • Macroeconomics deals with large-scale economic activity.
  • Most Internet memes are simply macro images with ironic or clever commentary.
  • You can use macroinstructions to automate complex or time-consuming programming segments.
  • On the macro level, you can see the grand silhouettes of distant old trees, especially when their tracery is revealed before the season’s pale yellow skies. –The Washington Post

Unlike micro-, macro- is not a unit of division in the metric system.

When to Use Micro

Definition of micro definition and definition of macro definitionWhat does micro mean? Micro is a prefix that describes something which is smaller relative to the unmodified noun. In the metric system, micro- denotes one millionth of the original term.

Here are some examples,

  • I need to buy a new micro USB cord for my phone, since I left my old one at a bus stop.
  • On a micro scale, opportunity costs can be very significant.
  • A depth micrometer measures tiny differences that can be indiscernible to the human eye.
  • Lacking economies of scale, the micro-territories have survived by exploiting their one truly worthwhile asset: their sovereignty, the right to do as they please. –The Economist

Should Macro and Micro be Hyphenated?

On the whole, these two prefixes are hyphenated less frequently than other prefixes, but just to be sure, see our post on prefixes and hyphenation.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define micro and define macroHere is a helpful trick to remember micro vs. macro.

Simply put, micro refers to small things and macro refers to big things.

Each of these terms appears in a wide variety of contexts and refers to a vast number of concepts, but if you remember this simple rule, you will generally be able to remember which is which.

As an even simpler memory trick, you can use the shared I between micro and tiny to help you remember that micro refers to tiny things.

Summary

Is it macro or micro? Macro and micro are terms of measurement that often appear as prefixes to other words.

  • Macro refers to large things.
  • Micro refers to small things. 

They each have a wide variety of uses, but this simple rule holds true for all cases.

Remember, micro and tiny are both spelled with the letter I, so identifying the meaning of this word should be easy.

Small differences in spelling can lead to large differences in meaning—even though micro and macro are only different by one letter, they mean opposite things. Don’t forget to check this site any time you have questions about spelling differences or other writing topics.

If you ever find yourself unable to choose micro or macro, you can always use this article as a refresher.

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