Get it right, at least on average: Data vs. datum

If looking at a graph of how many times the verb coming after these two words is confused, the numbers would be off the chart.

Datum means a lone, singular bit of measured information. Data is the plural of datum, as in Data about parking violations in New York City is available online.

Because of this, data technically requires a plural verb, as in The data are irrefutable. Of course, this sounds odd. Data seems to be a collection that is considered a single, unified object, in the same way that the United States is singular rather than plural.

My advice: Know your audience. If writing for a formal, academic purpose, show off your smarts by going with a plural verb. In all other instances, be a normal human being and use a singular verb.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.