[ RadSafe ] "x ray" vs "x-ray" Grammar (UNCLASSIFIED)

Falo, Gerald A Dr CIV USA MEDCOM PHC Jerry.Falo at us.army.mil
Wed Oct 20 12:39:22 CDT 2010

Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED 
Caveats: NONE

Generally, in American English hyphenation is somewhat discouraged and, in many cases, depends on the particular style manual used.

The hyphen used to prevent confusion especially when nouns are used as adjectives.  For example, a the phrase "beta particle accelerator" might confuse a reader. Did the writer intend an accelerator that accelerates beta particles"  If so, "beta-particle accelerator" would be the best was to write it. If the writer was referring to the "beta" particle accelerator in contrast to the "alpha" particle accelerator, then perhaps different names should have been chosen. Personally, in this second case, I could see using quotation marks as I just did, or the completely hyphenated form, i.e., "beta-particle-accelerator."

So, with x rays, it would be "x ray" when referring to the radiation but "x-ray" when used as an adjective as in "x-ray machine."

For a somewhat glib review of hyphenation try: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-hyphens.aspx.


-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu [mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Stabin, Michael
Sent: Wednesday, October 20, 2010 1:23 PM
To: radsafe at agni.phys.iit.edu
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] RadSafe Digest, Vol 438, Issue 1

>I get annoyed when a CHP lectures to emergency responders, radiation workers, etc. about, for example, the difference between a rad and Roentgen, because the students don't care, don't need to know, and, most importantly won't remember.

The "x ray" vs "x-ray" thing is a very minor point, I agree, I wasn't lecturing anyone, just noting that when writing this is a nit to pick. I hope that health physicists and health physics students know the difference between a rad and a Roentgen. If you tell me that you just measured 3 mR/hr of beta radiation, I hope you realize that you are speaking nonsense, exposure only applies to photons. Sure, for photons an R is about a rad is about a rem in soft tissue, but the difference in the three fundamental quantities is very important and better be understood. 

I have been simply amazed at some of the things we are seeing when grading Part I and Part II exams. People sitting for this exam don't understand secular equilibrium, what a gas detector curve is, and other fundamental aspects of health physics. This is not a 'highbrow' professor or CHP thing, this is that if you are working with radiation, you should be well trained in fundamentals, and the difference between a rad and a Roentgen is pretty fundamental. Is it OK for an electrician to think that current and capacitance are the same thing?


Michael G. Stabin, PhD, CHP
Associate Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences
Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences
Vanderbilt University
1161 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37232-2675
Phone (615) 343-4628
Fax   (615) 322-3764
e-mail     michael.g.stabin at vanderbilt.edu
internet   www.doseinfo-radar.com
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