Data Usage

Subject: Data Usage
From: Brian Neuhauser <0007021835 -at- MCIMAIL -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 1 Sep 1995 15:18:00 EST

You've done it, techwhirlers -- pushed my button and brought a
lurker out of his shell. I receive this list in digest format,
so please forgive if I accidentally reiterate someone's recent

I fight this battle often, usually with some curmudgeonly
engineering manager whose writing is above average but who
believes that "data are" will show the unwashed masses just how
smart he is and, in effect, why he deserves to be the boss.
("Data are" sounds quite lofty and educated, don't you think?)

Yes, data is plural in its original Latin, but so are


However, nobody says, "opera are her favorite kind of music."

See "The Friendly Editor" in the Q1 issue of Technical
Communication for more on the data debate. In it Don Bush argues
that the modern, English concept of data is similar to words like
coal or sugar -- singular in usage even though the object itself
consists of many, many "lumps."

If that's not enough to convince The Curmudgeon in Your Life, try
this: When something is admittedly in transition, why not side
with the future? Don't our employers pride themselves on their
(real or imagined) forward-looking visions?

Brian Neuhauser
bneuhauser -at- mcimail -dot- com

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