Common Errors in English Usage: Data and Datum

Here is an English usage worksheet on the nouns, singular and plural respectively, datum and data, along with a context clues worksheet on this noun pair. Why two? Well, as above, somewhere along the line, I started two and shepherded them far enough along to make it worth finishing them. In any case, the English usage worksheet is ten cloze exercises, and the context clues worksheet, also ten sentences, is a bit different than most I write in that it actually supplies the definitions up front and asks students to evaluate sentences to see whether or not datum or data are used properly.

As both worksheets explain, the usage rule on these words is shifting rapidly at the moment. My guess? There are still a few college professors out there that expect students to understand the difference between datum and data in grammar, style, and usage. Moreover, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that computer science courses require an understanding of proper application of these two words.  If nothing else, these worksheets can be used to help students build and reinforce their understanding of subject/verb agreement. Most of the sentences setups use is and are as verbs, so students can use the number of the verb to determine whether or not datum or data is the right word to use.

Finally, understanding the difference between datum and data, two words of Latin origin, provides a basis for understanding usage of a similarly nettlesome Latin pair, medium and media, and a Greek pair used across the common branch curriculum, and indeed in all fields of knowledge, criterion and criteria.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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