Sunday, July 8, 2012

"Data is", or "Data are"?

I guess I'm a pedant traditionalist when it comes to the word "data": one "datum", several pieces of "data", etc.

As with many matters relating to the use of language, though, this one isn't open and shut, by any means.

And so a few days ago we saw The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and The Guardian grappling with this issue once again.

However, I'm going to stick with my guns, dust off my slide-rule, and also continue to use the "Oxford comma"!

© 2012, David E. Giles


  1. Thanks for the links, David.

    I've always used the word data to refer to a collection (or grouping) of information. It may not be technically correct in terms of Latin, but when was the last time a data set we worked with had N=1 (sorry, T=1 for Time Series folks)? So in our field, at least, the word "data" never refers to the singular.

    Lastly, I think of data like it's rice. When was the last time you said "these rice are delicious"? We say "this rice is delicious."

    For the record, my dissertation advisor, who was one of the biggest names in econometrics one could ever know, always insisted on "data are." I'm in the minority, I know.