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Is the following sentence from Wikipedia poor style or even ungrammatical?

The 2010 United States Census reported that San Jose had a population of 945,942. The population density was 5,256.2 people per square mile (2,029.4/km²). The racial makeup of San Jose was 404,437 (42.8%) White, 303,138 (32.0%) Asian (10.4% Vietnamese, 6.7% Chinese, 5.6% Filipino, 4.6% Indian, 1.2% Korean, 1.2% Japanese, 0.3% Cambodian, 0.2% Thai, 0.2% Pakistani, 0.2% Laotian), 30,242 (3.2%) African American, 8,297 (0.9%) Native American, 4,017 (0.4%) Pacific Islander, 148,749 (15.7%) from other races, and 47,062 (5.0%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race WERE 313,636 persons (33.2%). Among the Hispanic population, 28.2% are Mexican, 0.7% Salvadoran, 0.5% Puerto Rican, and 0.3% Nicaraguan. Non-Hispanic Whites were 28.7% of the population in 2010, down from 60.4% in 1970."

Would replacing were with numbered be better?

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It looks like were 313,636 in number will be better instead of what you are suggesting. –  Mohit Nov 27 '12 at 11:35
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The number of elisions used and tolerated in modern English has licensed many constructions once considered to be examples bad style - or even to be ungrammatical. There are at least two elisions, I would say, in your sentence (replacing were by numbered, as you suggest, would eliminate one of them): The combined number of Hispanic and Latino persons [(of any race)] [in the country] was 313,636 - 33.2% of the total population. I've added a determiner, a reference to number, a noun structure, and an explanatory reference to the overall situation (which context might supply anyway). –  Edwin Ashworth Nov 27 '12 at 11:39
    
Not enough information to adequately answer the Q. I want to write "Hispanics and Latinos of any race ...", but I don't know the house style or the format of the other sentences that give similar demographic data about other categories. That's necessary. –  user21497 Nov 27 '12 at 11:41
    
@BillFranke I edited the question and provided more context. –  Nortonn S Nov 27 '12 at 12:12
    
I think this is Too Localised. The context is effectively a "listing of table contents", and as such it doesn't in any meaningful sense represent (or have to respect) standard grammar. –  FumbleFingers Nov 27 '12 at 15:23
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2 Answers 2

The sentence is grammatical, but awkward.

To put it in context, here's the original paragraph, with links and footnote references removed, and your sentence emphasized:

The 2010 United States Census reported that San Jose had a population of 945,942. The population density was 5,256.2 people per square mile (2,029.4/km²). The racial makeup of San Jose was 404,437 (42.8%) White, 303,138 (32.0%) Asian (10.4% Vietnamese, 6.7% Chinese, 5.6% Filipino, 4.6% Indian, 1.2% Korean, 1.2% Japanese, 0.3% Cambodian, 0.2% Thai, 0.2% Pakistani, 0.2% Laotian), 30,242 (3.2%) African American, 8,297 (0.9%) Native American, 4,017 (0.4%) Pacific Islander, 148,749 (15.7%) from other races, and 47,062 (5.0%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 313,636 persons (33.2%). Among the Hispanic population, 28.2% are Mexican, 0.7% Salvadoran, 0.5% Puerto Rican, and 0.3% Nicaraguan. Non-Hispanic Whites were 28.7% of the population in 2010, down from 60.4% in 1970.

The problem which underlies a text of this sort is that it shouldn't really be presented as text at all: the information it provides would be much more intelligible and useful in a table.

But if you're going to present it as text, it's very important to maintain a consistent syntax, providing the numbers and labels in the same format every time. The sentence you're asking about fails to do this: instead of the “#(%) Label” format which the reader has gotten used to, the author flips the label to the front.

There's a very good reason why the author does this: to mark the shift from “racial makeup” to ethnic makeup requires a new sentence. But fronting the label creates just the awkward construction that draws your attention. We're now dealing with a Census-defined label in the singular which must be complemented with a number, to which the author feels a need to attach a plural noun, persons. It would have been somewhat more graceful, and easier to follow, if the author had written something along the lines of

The ethnic makeup was ###,### (28.7%) Non-Hispanic White (down from 60.4% in 1970) and 313,636 (33.2%) Hispanic or Latino of any race; these Hispanics were 28.2% Mexican, 0.7% Salvadoran, 0.5% Puerto Rican, and 0.3% Nicaraguan.

I've de-pluralized “Non-Hispanic Whites” on the assumption that the Census label is parallel with the others. If it isn't, it should be.

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+1 You've made all the points I was too lazy to make when I said "relatively consistent". –  user21497 Nov 27 '12 at 12:28
    
+1 for " it shouldn't really be presented as text" -- true. That answers the question. There's nothing wrong with the "content" (not sentences). –  Kris Nov 27 '12 at 12:45
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There are four problems with the paragraph.

First, I don't know whether there are two categories (Hispanic and Latino of any race) or there's just one category (Hispanic or Latino of any race). If the former, then "Hispanic or Latino of any race were 313,636 persons (33.2%)" seems okay to me, but if the latter, then it'd have to be "Hispanic or Latino of any race was 313,636 persons (33.2%)".

The next problem is the next sentence: "Among the Hispanic population, 28.2% are Mexican, 0.7% Salvadoran, 0.5% Puerto Rican, and 0.3% Nicaraguan." The are should be were because everything else in the paragraph is in the past tense.

The third problem is that there's no need to extract "Hispanic or Latino of any race" from the preceding list. It could simply be "... 47,062 (5.0%) from two or more races, and Hispanic or Latino of any race, 313,636 (33.2%). Among the Hispanic population, 28.2% were ..."

The fourth problem is that there should be a comma after most of the percentages in parentheses.

I don't think it's necessary to change "were" to "numbered". The style is relatively consistent.

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+1 for highlighting the change of tense and the missing commas. –  StoneyB Nov 27 '12 at 12:30
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The whole Hispanic-or-Latino thing is . . . complicated. And that is just the tip of the iceberg: a Spaniard will insist that he is not Hispanic but Spanish, and I’ve even seen U.S. Government paperwork that sweeps in Brazilians and other Portuguese colonials as being “Hispanic”. –  tchrist Nov 27 '12 at 13:31
    
@tchrist: Yes, you're right. And "Hispanic" in the USA seems to mean "native speaker of Spanish" or "has a Spanish surname" (e.g., Rodriguez), just like all those native speakers of Brazilian Portuguese the US government dumps into the Hispanic category. Once again, as in linguistics, terminology is often problematic. –  user21497 Nov 27 '12 at 13:46
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