Word Choice: Media vs. Mediums
The word ‘medium’ has several meanings. This is not a problem in itself, but ‘medium’ also has two plurals: ‘media’ and ‘mediums’. And this can be confusing because the correct plural to use may depend on what sense of ‘medium’ you are using. Read on to find out more.
Media (Mass Communication)
One sense of ‘medium’ is ‘a channel of communication’. This typically applies to things like television, radio, newspapers and the internet. The plural of this sense of ‘medium’ is ‘media’:
We gathered data from a variety of media.
However, when referring to channels of communication, we also use ‘media’ as a mass noun. This is why we refer to ‘the media’ when talking about TV, radio and news sources.
The plural ‘media’ also applies in a few other cases, including:
- Electronic files that can be played (e.g. an MP3 is a type of ‘digital media’)
- Intervening substances, especially in the sciences (e.g. air and water are ‘media’ through which sound can be transmitted)
- Artistic materials (e.g. paint and charcoal are ‘artistic media’)
It is therefore correct to use ‘media’ as a plural in any of these situations.
Mediums (People Who Speak to Spirits)
Another type of ‘medium’ is someone who claims to communicate with spirits or to have psychic powers. The correct plural in this case is ‘mediums’. For example, we could say:
As a professional ghost hunter, I have worked with many mediums.
This is the only sense of ‘medium’ where ‘media’ is not accepted as a plural.
In addition, we can also use ‘mediums’ for artistic materials, so we could say:
Paint and charcoal are artistic mediums.
In this case, then, ‘mediums’ and ‘media’ are interchangeable as plurals. However, you will still want to use one term consistently if you are discussing artistic materials in a document.
Media vs. Mediums?
The correct plural depends on the kind of ‘medium’ you are discussing:
- If discussing means of mass communication, the correct plural is media.
- For an intervening substance, the correct plural is media.
- If you are discussing psychics or spiritualists, the correct plural is mediums.
- For artistic materials, you can use either media or mediums.
The key here is remembering to use ‘mediums’ when referring to psychics. In all other cases, ‘media’ is either preferred or accepted as a plural of ‘medium’.
And don’t forget you can have your written work proofread if you’d like more help with your word choice.