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From what I understand, the term donut arose as a shortening for the word doughnut. The former has become much more common, though.

Which word is more accepted in academia: the more formal but somewhat less common (doughnut), or more common (at least casually) but less formal (donut)?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Dec 17 '16 at 0:44
  • Well it is made of dough not "do" so I'm pretty sure people in academia would lean towards doughnut. I would guess the a torus is normally described as doughnut-shaped. – ukayer Jan 8 '17 at 0:57
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When asking about contemporary usage in academia it is almost always better to simply check usage in the specific domain. For example, in mathematics and engineering the word "doughnut" / "donut" may be used to refer to a torus.

"Doughnut" currently seems preferred in both the humanities and sciences -- although both are used -- based on the following quick inspections.

For the humanities, JSTOR ("a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary sources") lists:

Google Scholar returns more results and with higher citation counts for 'doughnut'. Top results are almost all metaphorical uses in the sciences, like the "banana-doughnut paradox" in geophysics. There are fewer listings for 'donut', and the highest cited is actually an article with JR Donut as a named author, not even a usage as a common noun! (Ironically, even this was an OCR error while scanning the name of JR Donat).

Note that searching JSTOR and Google Scholar with a recent time-window may indicate a narrowing of the gap in recent years. While even recent top-cited articles predominantly use 'doughnut', the total proportion of 'donut' titles has grown in the past decade. However different groups of academics are often writing for very specific audiences. If you are citing previous research that uses a particular spelling then you should probably follow that usage. The editors of a specific journal may also have opinions based on their chosen style guides or references, e.g. AP Style prefers "doughnut." Your field or publisher may vary!

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    @JOSH - Thank you! Consider restoring some version of your very useful answer with style guide and usage examples, as mine does not contain that material. – JeremyDouglass Dec 16 '16 at 16:25
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    @Mari-LouA - Not entirely :) Academic jargon tends toward globalization. One example: The Dutch publisher Elsevier puts out the international Journal of Theoretical Biology, which published an article with two authors from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing on "Donut-shaped fingerprint in homologous polypeptide relationships." – JeremyDouglass Dec 16 '16 at 16:37
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    "(Ironically, even this was an OCR error while scanning the name of JR Donat)." I would be so mad if I were that guy. – Devsman Dec 16 '16 at 18:53
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    But note that if you restrict publications in Google Scholar to the most recent ten years, donut begins to outstrip doughnut. The longer spelling still wins in JSTOR, but the gap narrows considerably. – 1006a Dec 16 '16 at 19:22
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    Heh, I'm not a passionate advocate for either spelling (though I am, in fact, passionately in favor of the confection itself, regardless of spelling—I'm partial to pączki in February), just thought I'd point out that there may be a trend towards less formality. It wouldn't entirely surprise me if the shorter spelling prevails in another several decades, even among British academics. – 1006a Dec 16 '16 at 19:40

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