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Plural Data

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One of the things I've noticed in recent times is that on science programmes I listen to, More or Less in particular, the word data is always treated as a plural. So they will say things like:

We found that these data showed a clear indication.

Or

We found that those data showed a clear indication.

To my ear this sounds very wrong. To me data is singular, so I would use "this" or "that" above rather than "these" or "those". Was this a generational shift I wondered. Google Trends was calling me so here's their figures:

Based on this1 data it seems that although there's been a slight rise in the these/those usage it's been reflected in the rise in this/that and the singular seems to be consistently winning over the plural by about five to one over time.

My conclusion, for what it's worth, is that usage has caught on in academia, but it's not spread beyond that.

I'll be sticking with the singular then.

  1. See what I did there? ;-)

Tags: words Written 15/06/16

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