Criteria, Media, and Memorandums

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  • Nancy Tuten

    20 March 2017

    Criteria, Media, and Memorandums

    Which of these sentences are correct?

    1. We will use several criterias in selecting our new office manager.
    2. Our most important criteria for an 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 word criterion. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 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 this way:

    • We will use several criteria in selecting our new office manager.
    • Our most important criterion for an 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:

    • Politicians claim that the media look for trouble. [The plural media needs a plural verb look, not the singular verb looks.]
    • 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— as does the widely used Chicago Manual of Style —a number of house style sheets—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 actually places memorandums ahead of memoranda as the plural of choice.

    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 company’s criteria for promotion is the same this year as it has been for decades.
    3. One major criteria is that the applicant have experience in sales.
    4. While most artists are proficient in only one media (e.g., paint, clay), Michelangelo created masterpieces in several medias.
    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 company’s criteria for promotion are the same this year as they have been for decades.
    3. One major criterion is that the applicant have experience in sales.
    4. While most artists are proficient in only one medium (e.g., paint, clay), Michelangelo created masterpieces in several media.

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