Using today's concept correctly will put hugely educated persons, even literal rocket scientists to shame because many of them misuse these words continually. Once you learn the secret, you'll be seeing the errors everywhere and will start feeling very pleased with your mental magnificence. These are plural words borrowed from Latin: data, media, criteria, and phenomena. Almost everybody uses them wrong.

Recall that in English we normally add "s" to a singular word (referring to one of something) to make it plural (two or more). Example: "One cow is chewing chocolate cud" but "Forty cows are storming the Hershey factory."

In contrast, Latin adds "a" to form the plural. It's as if they have 1 cow but 40 cowa.



One of these is "datum." It's just like the singular "cow": "One cow is digesting candy" and

"One datum (or fact) is contributing to knowledge."

To form the plural, don't add "s." It's not "Twelve datums are defining relativity" but "Twelve data"

The problem most people have is remembering that "data" is plural.

You wouldn't say "This cows is burping fudge" but "These cows are burping it."

Likewise, it's not "This data is vital to astronomy" but "These data are vital to it."



Same thing here: "One cow is giving chocolate milk" and "One medium artists use is ink."

The plural here is "media."

It's not "The cows is mooing for Snickers bars" but "The cows are mooing for them."

So it's not "The media is responsible for Harrison Ford's dimples" but "The media are . . . ."



Singular: "One chocolate cow is gaining weight" and "The one most important criterion for

happiness is chocolate cherries."

Plural of "criterion" is "criteria."

It's not "That cows is fat, sassy, and sick" but "Those cows are fat, sassy, and sick."

So it's not "That criteria for happiness is chocolate cherries, fudge sauce, and Kisses" but

"Those criteria for happiness are chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate."



Singular: "One bloated cow is lying down" and "One phenomenon is responsible for bloating."

Plural of "phenomenon" is "phenomena."

It's not "This four cows is resting comfortably" but "These four cows are resting now."

So it's not "This four phenomena is contributing to pollution" but "These four phenomena are . . . ."



How well have you understood this stuff? Always try substituting "cows" for the Latin plural word. Answers and encouragement appear at (When you get there, click on "Factoidinsertionemia"). Right or wrong? Supply the correct form (if it's wrong):

1. "This data has many errors."

2. "Can you name one stellar phenomena?"

3. "The media keeps harping about starfish."

4. "His #1 criteria for sleeping is silence."

5. "Have you found the problem in this data?"

6. "Does the media have no conscience?"


Factoid Answers

1. These data have (plural) many errors.

2. Can you name one stellar phenomenon? (singular)

3. The media keep (plural) harping about starfish.

4. His #1 criterion (singular) for sleeping is silence.

5. Have you found the problem in these data? (plural)

6. Do the media have no conscience? (plural)


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Kathy Alba, Ph.D. is author of Speaking and Writing Well: Empowering Yourself with "Proper" English, Your Dynamite Guide to Conquering the World.