Issue 135, page 3

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curmdgeon.GIF (1254 bytes) Curmudgeons' Corner

Guestmudgeon Ian Williams shows that the data are in

My own personal gripe relates to the word data. Am I part of a dying breed in insisting that this is a plural noun and should always take a plural verb, such as "the data are correct"? I see so often "the data is ...." that I wonder whether it is now sufficiently accepted to be definitive, particularly in the scientific community. If so, will anyone mourn with me? Oh, and the same stomach churning grief arises from the misuse of the words criterion (singular), and criteria (plural). Is there a criteria by which we can judge these things, or do no absolute criterions remain? I suppose we can only review the data and see what conclusions it supports.

Yes, we curmudgeons agree with you. Unfortunately, using data as a collective, singular noun is so widespread that we're not sure the tide can be turned.  Even the Encarta Dictionary, with its copious usage notes, suggests this, but it also says that data, in formal English, should be treated as a plural.  Encarta is also on your (and our!) side with regard to criteria (plural) and criterion (singular).  However, they do list criterions as another plural form.  Ouch!

Is there something you read or hear that sends you up the wall?

Do tell us. 

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