Disc or disk?

20 Sep
Disc or disk?

I will have to re-do this picture soon. I now have a new “New Oxford Style Manual”, a new “Concise Oxford English Dictionary” and a new “AP Stylebook” AND my new “Chicago Manual of Style” should be arriving tomorrow. Time for a new photo then, I think.

Anyway, it’s Troublesome Pairs time and I had to check this one just in case the other day when I was doing a transcription – really, we don’t use these words very often now that computers don’t use floppy disks any more, and although vinyl records are a ‘thing’ again, they tend to be referred to as ‘vinyls’ rather than ‘discs’. Oops, I’ve given the game away already, haven’t I!

So, just to spell it all out for future reference …

A disc is a flat round thing (also used metaphorically, for example for the Sun, which is obviously really a sphere) and is the spelling used for the kind of disc that is a record. I think a disc only has to be flatter than it’s round to be a disc, because you get discs of cartilage in your spine which can slip.

A disk is the computer kind of item. It contains a disc on which data can be magnetically or optically stored (the latter including CD-ROMs).

And just to confuse, in the UK you can spell both with a k, and then you have to work out which it is from the context.

The talk of the first kind of disc got me thinking about cylinders. These have straight sides and an oval or circular cross-section, so in effect a disc is a kind of cylinder as long as it has some kind of three dimensional existence.

You can find more troublesome pairs here, and here’s the index to them all!


Posted by on September 20, 2017 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs



6 responses to “Disc or disk?


    September 20, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    Great reminder, and I appreciate the link to other troublesome pairs as well.


  2. Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC

    September 21, 2017 at 1:42 am

    WELL I had this exactly backwards. Good to know that a computer disk is not spelled the same as the discs that are now called vinyls. ::sheesh::

    British spellings may be harder on the reader, but BOY are they easier on the writer! Maybe I need to move across the pond?


    • Liz Dexter

      September 21, 2017 at 7:19 am

      Thanks for your comment – this one is getting increasingly hard to remember as time goes on! And I’ve made a small edit to your comment, so haven’t published your second one. I have no problem with typos in comments, though!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Don Massenzio

    September 21, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Here is a great post from the Libro Editing blog that shows the correct usage of disc vs. disk.

    Liked by 1 person


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