Commonly Confused Word Pairs: Medium/media

October 18, 2007: Issue 209

How you form the plural of medium depends on the definition of the word.

When medium signifies a channel of communication or a means of artistic expression, the plural is media:
The network’s new president has 20 years’ experience in broadcast media.
She works in varied media—fabric, paper, and sometimes clay.

When medium means a size, a middle, or a spiritual communicator, the plural is mediums:
We need to order more navy blue mediums.
Happy mediums aren’t so easy to find.
Three mediums claimed to have contacted her great-great-grandfather.

And a usage note: Although media is slipping into popular use as a singular noun, avoid that technically incorrect construction. If it feels awkward to use a plural verb (“The news media are at it again”), try usingmedia to modify an obviously plural noun (“The news media outlets are at it again”).

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