More data on data

Subject: More data on data
From: "Wilcox, Rose (ZB5646)" <Rose -dot- Wilcox -at- pinnaclewest -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2002 09:52:23 -0700


Whoops. How embarrassing. Pushed Ctrl-S instead of Ctrl-V thus sending an
incomplete post.

Just an FYI from the American Heritage Dictionary.

Usage Note: The word data is the plural of Latin datum, “something given,”
but it is not always treated as a plural noun in English. The plural usage
is still common, as this headline from the New York Times attests: “Data Are
Elusive on the Homeless.” Sometimes scientists think of data as plural, as
in These data do not support the conclusions. But more often scientists and
researchers think of data as a singular mass entity like information, and
most people now follow this in general usage. Sixty percent of the Usage
Panel accepts the use of data with a singular verb and pronoun in the
sentence Once the data is in, we can begin to analyze it. A still larger
number, 77 percent, accepts the sentence We have very little data on the
efficacy of such programs, where the quantifier very little, which is not
used with similar plural nouns such as facts and results, implies that data
here is indeed singular.

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth
Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

This one is from Merriam-Webster online:

usage Data leads a life of its own quite independent of datum, of which it
was originally the plural. It occurs in two constructions: as a plural noun
(like earnings), taking a plural verb and plural modifiers (as these, many,
a few) but not cardinal numbers, and serving as a referent for plural
pronouns (as they, them); and as an abstract mass noun (like information),
taking a singular verb and singular modifiers (as this, much, little), and
being referred to by a singular pronoun (it). Both constructions are
standard. The plural construction is more common in print, evidently because
the house style of several publishers mandates it.

Rose Wilcox


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