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Grammaticists:

I have a data set with many records and many fields (the records are rows of the spreadsheet and fields are columns). Each field has a name, for example income or town or home neighborhood. I am trying to refer to unusual values in the column called home neighborhood and the sentence I currently have is:

There are problems within the “home neighborhood” field.

but that makes it seem as though it's a sports field or something. So my question: what word can I use other than field? Please note I cannot accept column or variable. Of course I tried the thesausurus- no luck. Please provide recommendations as you see fit.

FYI:

field: noun 10 a particular area (as of a record in a database) in which the same type of information is regularly recorded

from m-w.com

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front? area? arena? line? side? anywhere close? –  medica Jan 9 at 0:36
    
ring? group? integral domain? vector space? –  John Lawler Jan 9 at 0:39
    
@JohnLawler "Domain" is getting closer. –  Jack Ryan Jan 9 at 0:40
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Just use field. That's what they're called in database parlance. Placing the field name in italics or quotation marks indicates that those words are distinct from field. An audience reading about databases would be more confused by a non-standard synonym for field. –  D Krueger Jan 9 at 0:56
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Who is your audience? –  Canis Lupus Jan 9 at 3:04

5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

In cases of ambiguity like this (I assume this is mainly a documentation / bug reporting issue?), you could try simply using a qualifier, like data field or form field:

There are problems with the "home neighbourhood" data field.

You could also try to reword the sentence so there is less ambiguity:

The field "home neighborhood" has some problems.

This wording is awkward in the context of real-life fields like meadows or football pitches, but is very natural for talking about database or form fields.

It would also depend on the target audience - if it is intended for a developers, in the context of software development, I doubt there will be much issue of ambiguity even with your original wording.

In fact, using some other term would likely confuse the issue. If you're really set on it, you could try attribute (as suggested in Kevin Workman's answer), or maybe record, although these also have potentially problematic synonyms.

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Your problem here is not wording, and you should NOT try to change the proper jargon for something else. Technical writing is NOT creative prose.

Instead, use a different font style (usually italics) for technical terms, to clearly differentiate what is a technical term, from what is simple english. In plain text, you can use capitals, or _ fake underscores _, or /fake italics/.

It doesn't really matter what format you use, as long as it's clear, consistent, and unambiguous.

Ideally, you should introduce your document by illustrating each style you will use, and what that style means.

For more on this sort of thing, read up on technical communication, and information design.

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From a database perspective, what you're talking about are usually called "attributes". Not sure whether that applies to your context, but it might be a place to start a thesaurus search.

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There are problems within the “home neighborhood” field

To an extent, that sentence suggests the problem is with the field or column itself, rather than with unusual values occurring in it. Perhaps reword it along the following lines:

There are problems with values among the “home neighborhood” data.

Also consider making a direct statement, rather than using that slightly-roundabout “there are” form.

Some of the “home neighborhood” data values are problematic.

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Quantity? It is a word I think fits rather nicely.

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