Current Students Info

Writing tip: Data is/are?

Are you aware that data is actually the plural form of the noun datum? Accordingly, when referring to the existence of data, the plural form of the verb should be used: the data are or the data show.

While I acknowledge that the English language is always changing, and that it has become more common to use data as a singular noun, I'm not yet convinced that the adoption categorically makes the usage correct. The answer to the data is/are question depends on who you ask; the Wall Street Journal even got into the debate recently by publishing a blog posting to announce that henceforth, the paper will be using data as both a singular and a plural noun ("Is Data Is, or Is Data Ain’t, a Plural?"). My advice, especially if you're an academic author, is that you stay with the traditional noun-verb agreement of the data and use it as a plural noun.

Do you have any questions about this tip or any other writing matter? Please contact me, Theresa Bell, in the Writing Centre.