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Media, Medium, and Mediums

Commonly Confused Words

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Strictly speaking, media is the plural of medium and should be used with a plural verb. (Mediums is the correct plural when referring to fortune tellers or to the materials and processes used to create art.) But consider the usage notes below.

See also:

Examples:

  • “All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.” (Marshall McLuhan)

  • “Television is called a medium because anything good on it is rare.” (Fred Allen)

  • "Artists have reached within themselves to express their joys and fears, often choosing elements, mediums, and styles in ways that complement their emotions." (Lois Fichner-Rathus)

Usage Notes:

  • "It is apparent that media is on its way to becoming a collective noun which can take singular or plural as the writer wishes, particularly when the media is/are seen as a single homogeneous group."
    (Philip Gooden, Who's Whose: A No-Nonsense Guide to Easily Confused Words, Walker & Company, 2004)


  • "media: Prefer press and television or, if the context allows it, just press. If you have to use the media, remember they are plural."
    (The Economist Style Guide, 2005)


  • "The etymologically plural form media is often used as a singular to refer to a particular means of communication, as in The Internet is the most exciting new media since television. Many people regard this usage as incorrect, preferring medium in such contexts. People also use media with the definite article as a collective term to refer not to the forms of communication themselves so much as the communities and institutions behind them. In this sense, the media means something like “the press.” Like other collective nouns, it may take a singular or plural verb depending on the intended meaning. If the point is to emphasize the multifaceted nature of the press, a plural verb may be more appropriate: The media have covered the trial in a variety of formats. Frequently, however, media stands as a singular noun for the aggregate of journalists and broadcasters: The media has not shown much interest in covering the trial. This development of a singular media parallels that of more established words such as data and agenda, which are also Latin plurals that have acquired a singular meaning."
    (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, 2000)


  • Mediums
    "Some academics now use the coinage 'mediums' as a sort of super-intensive plural. That word seems useful when one wants to draw attention to the multiplicity of channels of communication. For example: 'There are numerous print mediums,' but 'The media are angry at the president.'"
    (James Monaco, The Dictionary of New Media: The New Digital World of Video, Audio, and Print. Harbor Electronic Publishing, 1999)

    "In art materials' terminology, the word 'medium' can sometimes be confusing. The type of paint you choose--for example, oil, acrylic or watercolor--is known as a medium (plural 'media'). If you use two or more materials in a painting, it is termed a 'mixed-media painting.' However, the term 'medium' (plural 'mediums') is also used to refer to the various liquids, gels and pastes that may be added to paint when you use it. These mediums can be added to color to alter paint's handling properties or surface appearance."
    (Simon Jennings, Artist's Color Manual: The Complete Guide to Working With Color. HarperCollins, 2003)

Practice:
(a) "I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a _____ of information."
(David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising. Crown, 1983)

(b) "Our _____ make crisis chatter out of news and fill our minds with anxious phantoms of the real thing."
(Saul Bellow, To Jerusalem and Back. Viking, 1976)


Answers to Practice Exercises

Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

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