One Criterion, Two Criteria

When I was a magazine editor, one of my duties was to proofread the whole magazine, including articles written by fellow editors.

One of my colleagues had an article about ten criteria to ensure a successful project, and had listed them thusly:
Criteria #1: Blah, blah, blah….
Criteria #2: Etc., etc., etc….

I changed every one of those ten “Criteria” to “Criterion #X,” because the word “criteria” is officially a plural, not a singular, noun.

And she changed them back to plural. And I changed them a second time to singular. And she changed them back, and that was how the article was published.

And she caught hell from one of the readers because she used the plural “criteria” instead of the singular “criterion.”

And I gloated (couldn’t help it).

Well, according to Webster’s Ninth dictionary, my colleague is in good company. Apparently former US President Richard Nixon once said in a speech:
“Let me now return to the third criteria.”

The dictionary notes that such sins are encountered often in speech and increasingly so in edited prose:
“…it may be that in time criteria will establish itself as a singular as agenda and candelabra have.”

Well, that time is not now, so please use “criterion” for the singular noun and “criteria” for the plural noun. And I will continue to correct it with the utmost attitude.


Typo of the Day that Cracked Me Up

The SPE Gulf Coast Section Board was approving some proposed guidelines today for making arrangements at hotels, restaurants and other meeting venues. One of the suggestions for keeping costs down was to ask the venue management to “wave” rather than “waive” the audiovisual fees they normally charge.

                                  Wave the Audiovisual Fee!


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