Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am uncomfortable with the use of inputs as the plural noun of the previously non-countable input. Is this a recent computer-related development (as used in many posts on this site) which has spilled into wider use, or is there a subtle demarcation of use happening? I am thinking especially about situations where input equates with a contribution or feedback.

For example, I've seen sentences like: 'The organisation responded to the customers' inputs', and it feels completely wrong. For me this type should always be input whether plural or not.

As an aside I am very comfortable with inputs as the plural of the sockets into which plugs can be put, but again this is a very different meaning.
What is the state of play?

share|improve this question
add comment

1 Answer

As you already know, when talking about feedback in general you should use input.
When talking about input pins or connectors, you should use inputs (every one of them is a concrete input).

IMO the use of inputs related to feedback denote dispersion/variety in the responses, as if every input was so singular that they could be told apart from each other, a case similar to the use of peoples, or when you have many fishes on the table, instead of having fish (in general) on the table.

I think in the case of your example, it would mean that the organization took care of every single one of the inputs (or at least that's the idea they are trying to sell), contrary to having taken care of customers' input, where this input would have probably been taken care in a more general fashion.

share|improve this answer
    
Sounds good to me. By the same token, a company could say "We've listened to user opinion[s]". Again, the plural form can suggest those opinions were each considered individually (and by implication, perhaps, more carefully). Doesn't work with feedback though! –  FumbleFingers Feb 7 '12 at 4:44
    
I think that in order to make the same token, the example should be "We've listened to users' opinion[s]". IMO users' makes a much more explicit reference to the fact that there are many individual users, while user is some kind of dull adjective for opinion[s]. In that case, user could even be dropped out and the sentence would still make sense (with almost the same meaning): "We've listened to (user/many/some) opinion[s]". As if they didn't give a damn that they were actually the users' opinions but just some user opinions as in an automated process, with faceless anon users. –  Eduardo Feb 7 '12 at 5:36
    
@FumbleFingers I think the case is also valid in Spanish. There is a huge difference between "Tenemos en cuenta las opiniones de los usuarios" and "Tenemos en cuenta las opiniones de usuario". A much greater importance is given to the users in the first version, compared to the second one where opiniones de usuario sounds like a prefabricated concept, and pretty much detached from the actual opinions of the actual users. –  Eduardo Feb 7 '12 at 5:43
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.