I’ve written before about treating ‘data’ as a plural count noun or a mass noun. In most settings I’m happy with either: ‘this data’ or ‘these data’; ‘data is’ or ‘data are’.
There are settings where the count version doesn’t feel right to me. I might write “We don’t have much data on that issue”, but never “We don’t have many data on that issue”. Perhaps the most extreme is the opposite of ‘more data’: ‘fewer data’ just seems wrong. So, I did research!
- Google n-grams
- Google trends
- A Twitter poll
So, people who agree with me are ahead, but by less than I would have guessed.
However, the Twitter poll also produced a number of comments implying that people were picking ‘fewer’ on theoretical grounds rather than what they actually think sounds right. I suspect some of the ‘fewer’s are hypercorrections.
Incidentally, both options would be clearly wrong if ‘data’ were being treated as singular, further support for the position that no-one actually does this.