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Criteria vs. Criterion

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There is a bit of confusion that surrounds the use of criteria vs. criterion. What is the difference between them? Is there one? Is one singular and one plural? In this post, I want to answer these questions and compare both words: criteria vs. criterion. I will outline how each word is used in a sentence and give you a trick to remember the difference. After reading this post, you won’t ever again wonder, “Should I use criteria or criterion?”

Origin:

The word criterion originated from early 17th century: from Greek kritērion ‘means of judging’, from kritēs.

Criterion as noun:

Criterion is used as a noun in English language where it means a principle or standard by which something may be judged or decided.

They award a green label to products that meet certain environmental criteria.

Use of criteria:

Criteria is the plural form of the word criterion, which means a standard, rule, or test on which a judgment can be based.

Examples:

We’ll look for help today with today’s screen from Morningstar CPMS, which has set up a conservative screen using seven criteria. [The Globe and Mail]

The new criteria have been attacked by many in the industry as being too onerous. [Financial Times]

A top federal health official said Monday that the administration will eliminate some criteria for late sign-ups and make other criteria language clearer. –The Wall Street Journal

Use of criterion:

Criterion comes directly from Greek and is a singular noun. As mentioned above, it is defined as a principle or standard by which something may be judged or decided.

Examples:

Williamson implies that’s so, rendering this a meaningless criterion. [Washington Post]

Perhaps one such criterion was for mortgages to have a loan-to-value ratio of 100%. [The Atlantic]

If comfort were the top criterion for selling womenswear, Jimmy Choo would be out of business. [New York Magazine]

It seems unlikely that the Legislature will recklessly amend the 1971 law mandating the SHSAT as the sole criterion for admission into the specialized high schools. –New York Post

Criteria or criterion:

Is it criterion or criteria? Each of these words refer to different quantities of something, and the misuse of them is widely considered an error. If you want your writing to look professional, it is best to keep track of the plural criteria and the singular criterion. Criteria is the plural form of criterion. It is used when referring to more than one criterion. Criterion is singular and is used to refer to a single thing. Here is a helpful trick to remember criterion vs. criteria. If you are ever unsure of which word you should use, just employ these mental checks. Criterion is singular, which means that it is only referring to one thing. Think of the “o” in criterion as standing for one. Also criteria is plural, which mean it refers to many things, or sometimes all things. Think of the “a” in criteria as standing for all.

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"Criteria vs. Criterion." Grammar.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 24 Nov. 2017. <http://www.grammar.com/criteria_vs._criterion>.

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