'Data' With a Singular Verb?Posted by June on October 20, 2014
LABELS: GRAMMAR, PLURALS, SUBJECT VERB AGREEMENT
Here's an e-mail I got a while back:
People are now using words which are considered to be all inclusive, such as data, with the plural form of the verb. When I went to school, the word data was considered to be singular because it is a set of information, all inclusive. Each of the pieces of data (aka information) are considered to be a set within that data.
There are several other words that imply the plural, but like data, are considered to be singular. For the life of me, I can't think of other examples at the moment. This error is rampant. I can't stand it! Both my husband and I want to turn off the TV or the radio when that happens. It is happening more frequently. I thought people who major in journalism and communications studies (what a misnomer!!) were supposed to have writing skills, which should include grammar.
And here's my reply:
Thanks so much for the note! I've gotten a number of e-mails over the years from people about verb agreement with "data" -- but it's always been the opposite of your position. They complain that data is used with a singular verb (the data is compelling) when in fact it should be used with a plural verb (the data are compelling).
Data is actually the plural of datum. So traditionally it would take a plural verb. (That's from the
Latin, but American dictionaries still treat data as a plural first and foremost.
But in fact, both forms are acceptable depending on the writer's/speaker's intent.
Hope that helps!
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June Casagrande is a writer and journalist whose weekly grammar/humor column, “A Word, Please,” appears in community newspapers in California, Florida, and Texas. more
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