I'm writing a sentence: "Check the data's properties."

Is that apostrophe in the right place? Since data is a plural (of datum, right?) I wonder if it should be datas' and not data's.

Or does it follow the same rule as "children's" does?

I know there is discussion about the plurality of "data", but it doesn't mention where an apostrophe would go.

Any thoughts?

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  • 1
    Your sentence has it right, and you could also skip the apostrophe to no harm. If you already mentioned the data, you could say Check its properties. The word children forms a good model. The fact that data is already plural is not so much the issue as that any short word is posessed without adding an 's' at the end. Sorry, I couldn't resist. – Yosef Baskin Jun 15 '17 at 15:26
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    Re data is a plural (of datum, right?) - according to this NGram even in the (presumably, more carefully considered) written form, the singular has been more common for the past couple of decades. Not that it's common to use a possessive at all in your context, where data properties is a natural "noun adjunct" usage (as per car seats, etc.). – FumbleFingers Jun 15 '17 at 15:45
  • Since virtually nobody would use 'two / seventeen / thirty-six data/datas', it is best to regard 'data' as a mass noun (yes, of plural original form – but taking singular verb agreement) (and etically hard to pin down: a mass of information, or 23 factoids?). So the data's properties. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 15 '17 at 16:33
  • @YosefBaskin If you "skip the apostrophe", you end up with () *datas properties. Did you intend to communicate something different by that phrase? – Lawrence Jun 18 '17 at 7:59
  • @Lawrence - You got me. I meant 'data properties' without the possessive, as FumbleFingers picked up. – Yosef Baskin Jun 18 '17 at 19:43

Many teachers suggest that we not use " apostrophe " after inanimate object, so I will go for " the properties of data ".

Hope it helps.

  • 2
    People who suggest that we not use " apostrophe " after inanimate object are probably responsible for more confusion than enlightenment as regards this particular aspect of natural English. I suggest this would normally be non-native speaker teachers, who mistakenly assume the genitive 's always indicates "possession". In fact it often just signifies some kind of "close association", and there's normally no reason to avoid it with inanimate objects. – FumbleFingers Jun 15 '17 at 15:53

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