'Data' With a Singular Verb?


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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