A Grammatical Conundrum Worth Noting

By: Henry Hemming

In releasing The Road to AUM: Driving Assets Under Management Through Effective Marketing and Sales, I am gaining some strong feedback. 99% of it has been awesome–individuals who ‘can’t believe’ someone ‘finally’ put all this usable knowledge into such a simple framework for managers of all shapes and sizes to follow.  1%, however, or just one person I should say, had some feedback on our use of a few key words.  I am the first to admit that grammar is not my forte.  And also, that the investment world uses terms and language that are often not used correctly. ‘Value add’ is a great example. Another is data. For those of us who want to learn just one little thing from time to time here is an important reminder (or further confusion) about how ‘data’ should be used technically speaking.

 

data v datum

 

It is almost always treated as a plural in scientific and academic writing.

Example: Not much data is available on flood control in Brazil.

 

This isn’t so much a common mistake as a common cause for arguments (as is often the case with words of Latin origin). The dictionaries treat data as a group noun, meaning information, especially facts or numbers, collected for examination and consideration and used to help decision-making, or meaning information in an electronic form that can be stored and processed by a computer. Then they go on to confuse matters by giving the following kind of example:

The data was/were reviewed before publishing. So, which is it, was or were? Strictly speaking ‘datum‘ is the singular form and ‘data‘ is the plural form. If you’re writing for an academic audience, particularly in the sciences, “data” takes a plural verb. For example: The data are correct. But most people treat ‘data‘ as a singular noun, especially when talking about computers etc. For example: The data is being transferred from my computer to yours. Note: no one ever asks for a datum.