StATS: Data is/are (created 2003-11-26)

Dear Professor Mean, Should I write "data is" or "data are"?

I've always been open minded and allow people to say either. But the purists among us will insist that data is the plural of datum. These are the people who took Latin in High School while you and I were taking Wood Shop.

If you're writing something that someone else will review, always use "data are". It will make the purists happy and you won't hear any criticism from the rest of us (the impurists?).

I have changed the format of these web pages to use "data are" because I want the proof readers of these web pages to look for other things. If you do find an inappropriate use of the word "data" though, feel free to email me (my email link is at the bottom of every page).

Further reading

In support of "data are"

Data "Are". The Albatross Project, Wake Forest University. Accessed on 2003-11-26. "A note on the word DATA, which means facts. But first, a note on the word people, which means persons. This word is plural. It means more than one person. Since it is plural, the following sentence would be wrong: "Those people is nice." The sentence is wrong because people is plural, and the verb that goes with people must agree in number with the noun people. The word "are" does the job, like "Those people are nice." www.wfu.edu/albatross/dataare. http://www.wfu.edu/biology/albatross/dataare.htm

Data Is/Data Are. Article #334. Dan O'Neill. Accessed on 2003-11-26. "Unlike the laws of science, the laws of language are often subject to the will of the people. And while we cannot change carefully tested scientific truths to fit the fashion, grammarian's rules, when they no longer serve clarity or naturalness of expression, we can throw out the window." Published in the Alaska Science Forum, August 24, 1979. This column is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community. http://www2.gi.alaska.edu/ScienceForum/ASF3/334.html

In support of "data is"

Data Is. Glenn Vanderburg, O'Reilly Developer Weblogs. Accessed on 2003-11-26. "I know that "data" is technically the plural of "datum". But I find it jarring when I read that "the data are transmitted" somewhere. In common usage (both speech and informal writing) that data "is transmitted."". http://www.oreillynet.com/windows/blog/2003/01/data_is.html

Is Data Is, or Is Data Ain't, a Plural? Phil Izzo. Wall Street Journal, Real Time Economics blog. Excerpt: "We here at Real Time Economics thought it might be worth pointing out a change in the Wall Street Journal's style for the word "data" before the corrective emails start flying." [Accessed on October 19, 2012]. http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2012/07/05/is-data-is-or-is-data-aint-a-plural/.

It depends

Webpage: Charles Carlson. Is "Data" Singular or Plural? Excerpt: "We've received several requests to address Latin plurals, so today we're going to tackle a tricky one. A listener called with this request: Hi, Grammar Girl. This is Adam from Peoria. I was wondering if you could go over the usage of the word data, as in The data are correct or The data is correct. Thanks." [Accessed on October 19, 2012]. http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/is-data-singular-or-plural.aspx.

This page was written by Steve Simon while working at Children's Mercy Hospital. Although I do not hold the copyright for this material, I am reproducing it here as a service, as it is no longer available on the Children's Mercy Hospital website. Need more information? I have a page with general help resources. You can also browse for pages similar to this one at Category: Writing research papers.