Tag Archives: singular noun

Save the plural noun

At some point, while we were not paying attention, a whole bunch of plural word forms became singular.  

This is not just an occasional slip by an unknowing individual.  The singularization of plural word forms is being committed by well educated people who should know better.

Pick up the paper or turn on the news and you will hear how “the data shows” or “the media is” or that someone was “an alumni” of such-and-such university.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I have heard people with advanced degrees ask, “what was the criteria” for such and such.

Have we become afraid of using correct word forms because they “sound funny?”  I’ve had a number of readers tell me they sometimes hesitate to use a word correctly because it “sounds funny” or “seems weird.”  Perhaps certain word choices seem funny or weird because their correct uses are becoming so endangered they shock our ears.

At the same time, let us not shun our singular nouns, and instead embrace the news medium, medical datum, selection criterion and university alumnus.  If we turn our backs on these singular words, they will sound ever weirder and funnier and eventually, become extinct.  Then our children and their children will never know–or speak–the truth.

Similarly, when we are using the plural, let us avoid disagreement between noun and verb.  Let us set a good example with the data show, the media are, the criteria were, or the alumni give.

As many will point out, some modern sources have loosened their standards.  This is likely because they believe the tide of common practice is too high to suppress.  Kind of like white shoes before Memorial Day.

How sad.

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