I'm translating the interface texts of an industrial control panel software and got stuck on this one. The module I'm referring to has some lists containing the sensors and switches for the digital and analog inputs and outputs of the machine. This module was called "Manual Control" in its current language but I've decided to give it a more proper term. In general those functions are mostly included in modules called "Diagnostics" in the plural form but when I've sent my suggestion to the software team they've decided to use the word in its singular form "Diagnostic".

I couldn't find any online reference to this matter so I'm asking it here. Which form is common and if possible could you explain why is it so?

  • 1
    IMO, diagnostics is appropriate for your context since, it will probably have multiple (sensor and switch) lists and not just a single entity.
    – BiscuitBoy
    Jan 20, 2016 at 12:04
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    Both are common, since there may be one or more than one countable entity.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 20, 2016 at 13:45
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    Agree, both are common. Besides plurality there is class. What is an electronic technician. What is an electronics technician.
    – user116032
    Jan 20, 2016 at 18:29
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    @user116032 Wouldn't an "electronic technician" be a robot? Aug 25, 2016 at 17:50
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    ‘… an industrial control panel software’ reveals you have a problem translating. When it was ‘Manual Control’ in its current language which language was that, please? What did you mean ‘give it a more proper term’ in your ‘current language? It’s not ‘more proper’ nor any kind of ‘proper’ English. Why are you surprised your software team chose ‘Diagnostic’? Could you post some sample sentences using ‘Diagnostic’ or ‘Diagnostics’? An explanation of ‘why is it so’ is that ‘a diagnostic’ is a single test; ‘diagnostics’ means all kind of things, including more than one single tests. Jun 22, 2017 at 21:43

1 Answer 1


Referring to technology, diagnostic appears to be the more common term. Note that "diagnostics" is a noun, while "diagnostic" is both a noun and and adjective:

From Dictionary.com:

  • Computers:
    • a message output by a computer diagnosing an error in a computer program, computer system, or component device.
    • a program or subroutine that produces such messages.

From the OED:

  • Computing:

  • Of a program or sub-routine: designed to identify program errors or system faults and give information about them.

    • 1950 W. W. Stifler et al. High-Speed Computing Devices xvii. 437 In the computer proposed by the Raytheon Company, self-checking and diagnostic equipment is provided throughout.
    • 1953 Proc. IRE XLI. 1320/1 We discuss the use of three types of diagnostic and servicing programs which enable us to use the computer to diagnose its own troubles.
    • 1967 A. Battersby Network Analysis (ed. 2) viii. 140 Diagnostic routines are able to detect obvious errors in the input and print out comments on them—i think i have a loop is one.

    • 1985 Sci. Amer. July 13/1 This program, which will run only in the graphics mode, is diagnostic.

Ngram: computer diagnostic vs computer diagnostics, software diagnostic vs software diagnostics

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    His use doesn't seem to be related to error messages, which is how the singular form is used.
    – Barmar
    Jan 21, 2016 at 2:07
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    @Barmar - diagnostics is not the plural of diagnostic, it is just a variant. I am not saying 'diagnostics' is not correct, but evidence suggests that it is just less commonly used in tech contexts.
    – user66974
    Jan 21, 2016 at 5:55
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    Diagnostics, in a computer sense, refers to a set of diagnostic tools or programs. I don't believe I've ever heard someone say (in 40+ years in the computer biz) "You'll need to run the diagnostic" vs "You'll need to run the diagnostics." If someone said such, the response would be "Which one?"
    – Hot Licks
    May 27, 2016 at 11:46
  • @HotLicks - as usual you never provide evidence or reliable reference.....just words
    – user66974
    May 27, 2016 at 12:12
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    It's hard to provide evidence of absence.
    – Hot Licks
    May 27, 2016 at 12:28

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