"Data" as a plural -- anyone holding out for this one?

Okay, sue me – I use “data” as a singular noun. Is anyone on the Dope still holding out? Anyone who would say, “The data are weak,” or use the word “datum”? If so, please step forward and claim your quaintness award.

I always considered “data” as a kind of collective noun, therefore you say “The data is weak.” in the same way you’d say “The school [of fish] is swimming.”

As for ‘datum,’ I can’t think of any situation I’ve used it. Then again, I can’t think of any situation where I would use it. I suppose if I was referring to a cell on a spreadsheet, I could say “this datum right here” or something.

I still do. Mostly because it confuses the end users and preserves that veil of mystery between the end users and computer geeks.

I used ‘datum’ all the time when I was flying. (And I’m getting the itch to get current, so I’ll be using it again!) Weight and balance are calculated from the datum line. I know I’ve used ‘datum’ to refer to a single unit of data, but I don’t remember when. I use ‘The data are’/‘The data is’ about equally. Just depends upon how it comes out.

No, because it’s pedantic and often confusing to try to hold onto the old usage. As Webster.com says, “Data leads a life of its own quite independent of datum, of which it was originally the plural.”

Kind of just a similar thing (at least to me):

Daylight Saving Time is the correct term. I say Daylight Savings Time. It just feels better on my tongue. Would any nitpicker throw it back at me? Hmmm.

It is still quite the norm in investments. Data are everywhere.


I worked with a bunch of sociology types who strenuously insisted that “data” are plural.

For the singular they prefered the term “data point.”

I use it as a plural, because I had an oldschool undergraduate advisor, and an oldschool graduate advisor, and they drilled it into me. When I see “the data is” or “the data supports” or “the data allows” it jumps out at me and I reach for my red pen, so I’ll probably pound it into another generation off hapless students.

I never use “datum.” I’d always use “data point,” which, now that I think of it, should really be “datum point,” shouldn’t it?

Like Electronic Chaos, I use “data” as a collective noun.

However, I use “datum” whenever the singularity of a piece of information needs to be stressed. I can’t recall ever having used “data point”, but I’m not an academic.

Was this a grammatical issue for them, or just the need to differentiate between a data set and a single data point? Being a scientist I’m very aware that one measurement is not “data,” but grammatically, I often use the word “data” as a singular noun.

“The data sets are weak.”

I tend to treat it analogously to “water”. You don’t have “a water”, but you say “water is <blah>”. Obviously, that’s at odds with the classical usage, but we really don’t speak Latin or Attic Greek any more, even in scholarly writings. Contemporary usage tends to treat it as a collective noun that is gramatically singular.

You know, the older I get, the more I lean toward descriptive rather than prescriptive grammar.

I use the plural for ‘media.’ I also find myself using ‘criterion’ fairly often.

I do like mrklutz’s viewpoint on ‘data,’ though.

Did you ask if they had an agenda on this?

Data is plural in Latin. But we’re speaking English, so that bit of data is irrelevant.

There’s only one
Folks inferiah
Say ‘one criteria’!

I say ‘media’ when I’m referring to more than one medium, or when I talk about ‘The Media’. If I’m talking about a single medium, I say medium.

If by “agenda” you mean some sort of political agenda, then no, they didn’t. But they all had advanced degrees in social science and had done clinical papers and theses and dissertations and all that and they had it drilled into them that data are plural.

My latest copy of the Associated Press Stylebook still insists that “data” takes a plural verb.

My professors all treat data as a plural. We students all treat it as a singular.

I say “data are”. Language changes quickly enough without my errors helping it along.

I have only used “datum” in the sense of a geodetic coordinate system or model geoid, as in “WGS84 or NAD27 datum”. Unfortunately I think this also promotes “the WGS84 and NAD27 datums”, and I don’t know how one is supposed to use datum in this situation.

Count me among the quaint. Data are. Would you like an example of “datum?” The racing rules for my class of sailboat require marks (usually tape) on the mast for the level of the deck (the deck datum) and the maximum height of the main sail (the mast datum.)

As for single women, I used to datum, but I’m married now. :wink: