Morning English Quiz - (you thought I was kidding?)

Here’s an English grammar test for you (scroll down):

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No that you were joking I was just expecting you to ask some questions. :frowning:

I’ll see if I can do better going forward…on short notice (my own, to be clear) I punted and grabbed something pre-made. There are questions at that link, you just have to scroll down a bit to get to them.

I could start a holy war by asking questions such as:

  1. Is ‘data’ a singular or plural noun?
  2. Infinitive splitting - acceptable or not?
  3. The Oxford comma - to use, or not to use?

Both. “The data shows…” “We gathered a lot of data from the spacecraft instruments.”


Most style guides recommend to use the Oxford comma. The oldest, most widely used IBM Style Guide certainly does. I can’t remember offhand whether the Microsoft and Apple style guides do, but the general recommendation from technical writing educators is to use it.

The Oxford comma helps separate items, phrases, and ideas. (see what I did there)

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  1. Data is plural, of course there can be a piece of data.
  2. No idea what infinitive splitting is so will have to look that up
  3. The Oxford comma I’m not sure about the meaning, so will look that up too
    but in legal documents commas are unacceptable as it implies hesitantancy and unclear thinking, although barristers often pause to add effect.

It can be difficult really, to understand
Here the difficulty is on me, it’s all too much.

It can be really difficult, to understand
Here I have a problem with the understanding

Regarding the Oxford comma, I highly recommend this entertaining book. I enjoyed it. Then again, I’m a huge nerd.

I really can’t read books or is that I can’t really read books.

It’s the former a
I really can’t, read books (they are too demanding)

rather than
I really can’t read, books (as I can read, it’s just books are really booring)

Legally: I prefer not to read books as I find them devoid of intelligent direction.

Data is plural.

The singular is datum.

Just because everyone says it doesn’t make it right…


Enough said.


Too early for this… it’s 4am somewhere.

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Data is plural :slight_smile:
Population is single and I can populate it with data.
Populations: can I populate two populations with the same data so that I have datas, why not.

That data is clearly denotes a group of values, once it is set the group as a whole can be seen as singular. It would not be clear to call this group datum, althought it could be so called so date is used to refer to a group, or groups.

However, in everyday language and much of the usage of software development and computer science, “data” is most commonly used in the singular as a mass noun (like “sand” or “rain”)
Grains of sand
Drops of rain
Things(datum) of data

English is a living language, still evolving and changing. I learned recently that it changes gradually by ad-hoc consensus; as more and more people use it a certain way, it gradually changes.

This is disappointing and I’ll think of it every time I go through a nite drive-thru, but it’s historically what happens and it’s unstoppable. There are much older words that are considered proper now that were improper historically, but they were considered awkward by the overall population and hard to spell. I can’t remember examples, but there were far more words with “-ough” than there are now.

This leads to considerable inconsistencies and regional differences…if I’m ever carrying a lorry tyre in a lift in the UK I’ll keep it in mind.

An example of a language with rigid rules is French. The Conseil international de la langue française sets rules for usage of French. Simply put, if you break these rules, you’re not speaking or writing proper French. There’s no debate and no discussion - there’s a “right” French and a “wrong” French and an ultimate judge - the CILF.

Since there is no such organization for English, there are no rules except by unspoken consensus and usage amongst a certain population. There’s a “mostly right” English and a “considered wrong” English (by a certain audience). So while @Jake_Richter is correct that the Latin singular is “datum” and the plural is “data”, eventually “datum” will be dropped simply because not enough people use it.

I don’t like it any more than you do, but I can’t stop it.

This is why style guides are important, they set consistent rules for everyone in the organization to follow in internal and external communications. If a large corporation has an extremely consistent writing style, you can bet that they’re using a style guide.

A point, line, or surface used as a reference, as in surveying, mapping, or geology.
Datum - definition of datum by The Free Dictionary

‘We’ use the word ‘datum’ more for a constant point of measurement to reference the hieght of a tide:

Chart datum.

Predicted heights are in metres above Chart Datum

I was born and brought up in the UK, trained as a lawyer, and am now over 70 years old. Would you believe that, until about 3 months ago, I had never heard of the Oxford comma? I was certainly educated without it and to me, although I can understand some logic in it, it still seems just wrong.

(And I also try to avoid split infinitives when writing although it is not always practicable to so do.) :grinning:

I have also been trained, when mentioning someone in writing whose gender is unknown, to refer to ‘his or her’. I have only recently started using ‘their’ as nowadays I think it is a better option (not ‘alternative’). To me, ‘their’ is plural.

(Don’t get me started on whether you can have more than two alternatives. You can’t! You can have two alternatives or three or more options.)

I see “alternate” can have different meaning depending on context. Examples:

  1. Alternating colour between cells in a column…flip flopping between two colours.
  2. Multiple alternate universe. More than two…

If we take “alter” as a form of modification from one original…then there’s nothing to limit the number of ‘altered’ states of the original. And so, you could have more than two alternates.

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An alternative predisposes that there was an original state/form/function etc.

Opions are open and have no predispostion.

I can alternate which hand to use but have the option of using neither.

I may have an alternative to being formally classed as male but the opions are multiple and so the choice can be multiple (plural)

I am that I am no matter what I may seem to be. You have alternative ways of looking at me which are made of your choices. Feel free to an alternative as just one of the known choices. If you only see two that doesn’t mean there aren’t others.