Word Confusion: Criteria versus Criterion

Posted July 30, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 22 August 2017

Criteria has been used in speeches and writing as a singular noun, although it is actually a plural noun, i.e., referring to a number of standards whereas a criterion is but one point by which something is judged.

Yes, this means you aren’t likely to get in trouble with all but the sternest editor if you’re writing a fictional novel. If you’re writing non-fiction, then no holds are barred and expect to see red ink fly!

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Criteria Criterion
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com
A list of judging criteria Asking if the dancing makes me wanna move baby
Part of Grammar:
Plural for criterion Noun, singular
A principle or standard by which something may be judged or decided
Further criteria needs to be considered.

The launch came too close to violating safety criteria.

It met all our criteria: an interesting plot line, a range of characters, proofread text, and great tension and drama.

A great meal has a number of criteria that must be met including complementary wines with each course, courses which lead smoothly into the next, imaginative and well-created dishes, and a lovely port to finish.

An additional criterion needs to be considered.

The launch came too close to violating a particular safety criterion.

It met our criterion: it was a great read!

A great meal has but one criterion: that it taste great all together.

Adjective: criterial
History of the Word:
Early 17th century from the Greek kritērion indicating a means of judging, from kritēs.

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Pinterest Photo Credits

The “Essential Criteria to Include in Your Résumé” is courtesy of the RedStarResume blog.