Debated spellings

There are a number of debated spellings in our world. We are well aware that there are accepted differences between British and American English. We tend towards British spelling on the site, but realise that with an international audience, we will have British and American spelling on the site. 

Because of the vagaries of language, we find that there is inconsistency with the use of some words, which warrant some discussion:

  • artefact vs artifact
  • echoes vs echos
  • -cele vs -coele
  • fetus vs foetus
  • -penia vs -paenia
  • grey vs gray

Artefact is the original British English spelling. Artifact is the American English spelling.

Interestingly, unlike most American spellings, artifact is the accepted form in some British publications. Artifact also has a derivative spelling that is closer to words that are related to it, e.g. artificial.

Therefore, some would argue that artifact should be the preferred spelling - it has an American and British following, and a spelling that is closer to related words. Although one may favour either spelling, for these reasons and because we adhere to consistency the preferred spelling on is "artifact".

Both "echoes" and "echos" are correct plural forms of "echo". Although neither of them is specifically linked to UK or US English spelling and both are technically correct, at we aim for uniformity as much as possible.

One can debate which spelling should prevail, but we feel that "echoes" leaves less room for mispronunciation of the long O sound and therefore prefer the plural form "echoes" to be used (by extension haloes, the plural of halo, is preferred to halos).

Several medical terms end with the root "-cele", although in some texts, usually older, the suffix "-coele", seems to be preferred. We favour the contemporary orthographic convention which is to use "-cele", therefore: hydrocele, cystocele, haematocele, etc.

In both British and American English fetus is the preferred term and foetus will only now be seen in the historical literature and out-of-date textbooks. Therefore in line with modern usage we use 'fetus'.

The suffix '-penia' is the correct one, as in osteopenia, thrombocytopenia, leucopenia. Spellings, such as thrombocytopaenia, are incorrect and will be changed to the correct form when seen.

Outside the US 'grey' is the preferred spelling and gray is rarely seen, whereas the situation in the US is the exact converse. Thus on Radiopaedia we prefer the spelling to be grey.

Of course for the spelling of the SI unit of absorbed dose it is gray because it is named after Louis Gray, ironically a British physicist!

The main exception to the above, is that we will allow the 'incorrect' spelling when it is within directly quoted text or within citations of references. However as discussed in our article on plagiarism copying chunks of text is usually completely unacceptable.

The only other circumstance when an incorrect spelling will be purposely used and allowed on is in article title synonyms, when it is felt that there is a chance that users entering the 'incorrect' spelling into the search box may inadvertently struggle to find the relevant article.

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Article information

rID: 31056
Tag: help, style
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Contentious spellings
  • Controversial spellings
  • -cele vs -coele
  • -penia vs -paenia
  • Grey vs gray
  • Echoes vs echos
  • Artefact vs artifact

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