Writing for Business

Nov 16 2009   3:13PM GMT

Criteria or criterion?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
One important ________ for security assurance is documentation of application security measures in development.
a. criterion
b. criteria

Answer: a

Criterion is singular; criteria is plural. However, Merriam-Webster notes that usage doesn’t always comply. And we know what happens when that situation hits the tipping point — when’s the last time you heard someone mention an agendum?

Here’s the entry:
Pronunciation: \krī-ˈtir-ē-ən also krə-\
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -ria \-ē-ə\ also cri·te·ri·ons
Etymology: Greek kritērion, from krinein to judge, decide
Date: 1622

1 : a standard on which a judgment or decision may be based
2 : a characterizing mark or trait
synonyms: see standard
usage The plural criteria has been used as a singular for over half a century . Many of our examples, like the two foregoing, are taken from speech. But singular criteria is not uncommon in edited prose, and its use both in speech and writing seems to be increasing. Only time will tell whether it will reach the unquestioned acceptability of agenda.

Here’s a little quiz on criteria/criterion.

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2  Comments on this Post

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  • Nnf97
    Its coincidental, but I came across this exact thing in "Prisoner of Birth" By Jeffery Archer, just yesterday.
    4,250 pointsBadges:
  • 1rabella
    Funny how those things happen -- I often come across a reference to something obscure and then see it crop up several times over the next day or so.
    40 pointsBadges:

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