Writing for Business

Jul 31 2013   1:35PM GMT

Is data singular or plural? It depends.

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?

interrobang Although big data is getting bigger all the time, much of the data being collected ___ useless.
a. is
b. are

Answer: a.

Data can be singular or plural, so that’s not the issue. But to be congruent with “much,” which we use only with mass nouns, data is singular. If you used “many,” then you would have to use “are.”

The issue is countable vs. mass nouns. If data is singular, it’s countable. If it’s plural, it’s a mass. It’s one of those beans vs. bean dip situations. If your style guide requires one or the other, you may have to rejig your sentence to comply. Just don’t tell me that much of the data are useless.

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