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01/15/01: Criteria and Media

Which of these sentences are correct?

1. We will choose a new office manager on the basis of several criterias.
2. The most important criteria for a new office manager is organizational skill.
3. Before I interview applicants, I tell them that our criteria are very stringent.
4. Politicians claim that the media looks for trouble.
5. Television is an extremely effective media for advertisers.
6. The media have uncovered many scams in the past twenty years.

Only numbers 3 and 6 are correct.

"Criteria" is the plural form of the singular noun "criterion." Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (10th edition) notes that "criterions" is also an accepted usage but lists it second, behind the preferred choice of "criteria" as the plural form.

Sentences 1 and 2, then, should read as follows:

1. We will choose a new office manager on the basis of several criteria.
2. The most important criterion for a new office manager is organizational skill.

"Media" is the plural form of the noun "medium." We frequently hear "media" used as a singular, especially by the advertising industry. _Webster's_ notes that our language seems to be moving toward the acceptance of "media" as a singular collective noun; however, its use is still widely disfavored, particularly in writing.

Here are the corrected versions of sentences 4 and 5:

4. Politicians claim that the media look for trouble. [The plural "media" needs the plural verb "look," not the singular verb "looks."]
5. Television is an extremely effective medium for advertisers.

Some other words are similarly confusing. "Data," for example, is the plural form of the noun "datum." While Webster's notes that using "data" in the singular is now considered standard, a number of house style manuals--including the widely used Chicago Manual of Style--insist that "data" is always plural. Thus, we would write,

"The data ARE being used to advance legislation on the issue because THEY are irrefutable."

"Memoranda" has traditionally been the plural form for "memorandum," but now Webster's places "memorandas" ahead of "memoranda" as the plural of choice. (I think I'll stick to the shorthand forms "memo" and "memos" rather than deferring to Webster's on this one!)

TEST YOURSELF: Check for the proper use of "criteria," "criterion," "media," and "medium" in the following sentences. Be sure to check verbs and pronouns affected by those words, too.

1. Despite the popularity of television, radio, and the Internet, the printed page is still a viable media for the dissemination of news.
2. The criteria for promotion is the same this year as it has been for decades.
3. One criteria we are interested in is an applicant's experience in sales.
4. While some artists are proficient in only one media (e.g., paint, pencils, or clay), Michelangelo created masterpieces in several medias.

Look for the correct answers in next week's tip.

ANSWERS::

1. Despite the popularity of television, radio, and the Internet, the printed page is still a viable MEDIUM for the dissemination of news.
2. The criteria for promotion ARE the same this year as THEY HAVE been for decades.
3. One CRITERION we are interested in is an applicant's experience in sales.
4. While some artists are proficient in only one MEDIUM (e.g., paint, pencils, or clay), Michelangelo created masterpieces in several MEDIA.

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