Is the word ‘data’ singular or plural? It’s one of those changing usages of the English language that reasonable people disagree on. What does Microsoft Word’s grammar and style say … “Data is ..” or “Data are …”?
The UK Financial Times has just changed its style guide to say that ‘data’ is always singular. A controversial move, even among FT staff and columnists. So now the whole ‘data/datum’ question has flared up again.
What does Microsoft Word say?
What does the Grammar system in Microsoft Word say is correct? Is Data singular or plural according to Microsoft? Word for Windows doesn’t care, at least most of the time.
We checked various sentences in US, UK and Aussie English and in most cases there’s no blue underlining to show a grammar or usage issue.
Well, almost all. During our tests, a blue underline did appear for one use of ‘are’ with the US English settings but not consistently. So “your milage may vary”.
Even stranger, that Grammar suggestion only appeared in Word 365 for Windows and Word in a browser but not for on Mac version of Word 365.
The results might also depend on which Grammar and refinement settings you have as well as language and dialect.
We could not find any Grammar setting that might control data as singular/plural either specifically or generally.
About “Data” singular vs plural
Going back to its Latin roots, “datum” is singular and “data” is plural. That’s the basis for some folks insisting on that vocabulary.
For others, it’s a question of how you were taught. For some, the phrase “Data are necessary.” just sounds wrong! I’m sure my 1970’s high-school English teachers would have added their red pen to “Data are ..”.