Is Data Singular or Plural?
Table of Contents
Data can be used in both singular and plural forms. In general writing, it is mostly used in its singular form (the data is). In academia, it is mostly treated as plural (the data are), and considered as the plural form of datum: A single unit of data.
What is data? A definition
The term data is defined as (1) Details, facts, and statistics collected for reference or analysis or (2) Information electrically stored in, operated on, or transmitted by computers. Data is best described as a plural word in transition to a single one. Therefore, if you naturally refer to “data” as singular, keep with it. However, it is allowed to use the plural form of “data.” Data is a singular or plural noun, while it is increasingly more frequently employed as a singular noun. The term data is derived from the Latin word datum, which meaning “a single item of information.” Over time, data evolved to become synonymous with “information”: it ceased to be a plural noun and became a singular noun in its own right.
Changes in its use throughout history
In the early twentieth century, “data” was regarded a plural noun, and using it singularly was deemed illiterate. However, probably certainly as a result of Latin’s omission from the school curriculum, the term “data” has begun to mutate into a singular word.
Data is mostly used in its singular form in general writing
The term “data” is currently considered singular and is used to refer to information. It is no longer used exclusively as the plural of data, but rather as a singular mass noun in its own right. Then it is compatible with singular verbs and pronouns.
Data is mostly used in its plural form in academic writing
In academic and scientific writing, data is frequently used in the plural form of datum. The plural verbs and pronouns are then utilized. As mentioned in the APA sixth edition (p. 79), the plural form of some foreign nouns—particularly those ending in the letter a—may appear to be single, leading authors to choose a verb whose number agrees with the noun. This is most emphatically the case with the term “data.” As indicated in the APA Manual (p. 96), the term datum refers to a singular entity, whereas the term data refers to a plural entity. Due to the fact that plural nouns require plural verbs, data should be followed by a plural verb.
The APA Publication Manual advises that data be presented in plural form. This approach is consistent with the widespread recommendation to represent data as plural in academic writing, particularly in the social sciences, where the APA style is favored. However, according to the AP Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style, data should be used in its singular form.
If you are writing in a non-academic context, you should use it in its singular form. If you are using it in an academic context, according to the APA Style Guide, use it in its plural form. If you rely on the AP Stylebook or Chicago styles, use it in its singular form.