Is it DĀTA or DĂTA?

By Glenn J. Downing, MBA, CFP®

I’m here to tell you once and for all.

Yes, I know . . . this is a little off the beaten path for me. 

I usually write about financial topics, given that I’m a professional financial planner.  But occasionally some NIGO aspect of the world (that’s Not in Good Order, in my professional parlance) comes to my notice with such frequency that I just can’t take it anymore.  Sort of like the crescendo in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.  It builds and builds, and you know that a climax is coming. 

Well, today it peaked, and I’m compelled with great generosity of spirit (and indeed, humility) to set the English-speaking world right. 

Ready?  Here it is:  data is the plural of the singular datum.  There is your pronunciation:  dāta with a long a.  Not dăta with a short a.  Never ever EVER. 

Now that that’s settled, let’s turn our attention to the verb tense.  Since data is a plural, it takes a plural verb.  The data are inconclusive is written correctly.  The data doesn’t tell us much is now and for all time incorrect.  A plural subject demands a plural verb. 

Head spinning yet?  Toughen up, because I’m not finished. 

Similarly, consider the word media.  It is the plural of the singular medium.  It therefore takes a plural verb.  The media are biased is a correct (and likely true) statement.  The news media is on the scene is now and for all time incorrect.  Media is subject of the sentence, and news is an adjective modifying the plural noun.  It is correctly written, The news media are on the scene

Man, do I feel better!  The world is not a fair place.  As I tell my students, fair is where you go to ride rides.  But one does what one can.  For my readers today, I sincerely hope I’ve been helpful. 

So:  Out into the world with you!  Be empowered with correct pronunciation coupled with subject and verb agreement and make a difference!

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