Saturday, September 26, 2009


Today in Time, I read an article using the phrase "the data are inconclusive".

Which sounds incorrect to my ear. Even though I know it is technically and theoretically correct, I think this is a case where colloquial usage (singular) has superseded traditional grammar rules (plural).

Were I writing this phrase, I would always say "the data is inconclusive".

In the stricter echelons of grammarians, this is a particularly nasty piece of heresy. Grammar anarchy! Rrawr!

Which brings up another question:

"Day-tuh"? or "Dah-tuh"?

I find that I've adapted to the more common day-tuh over time, particularly as I spend so much of my time working with software engineers who, most often, say day-tuh.

My inclination, however, is that dah-tuh is more correct.

And singular.


  1. Dah-tuh as plural has gradually came to sound normal to my ears but only after working for YEARS with psychiatric epidemiologists and later with statisticians immersed in compiling data from around the world (how persuasive does THAT sound?!). To anyone not submerged in such worlds, though, "data is..." leaps to the tongue.

  2. It took me 8 painful years to retrain myself to begrudgingly type 'the data are...'

    To me the data are always in a set. One set of numbers. One big thing. 'The data set is..' I think the (set) has become silent, yet implied. At least that's what I like to tell myself!