I'm inventorying all types of information used by the people involved in a business process, things such as client name, price, price index, adress,quantities sold, stocks etc.

If I were to do the same thing about a form I would call it inventorying the form fields.

Here, I'm looking for a single word that would mean the same thing on a whole businness process involving dozens of steps and around forty different #### of information.

What could we replace #### by ?

The alternatives, so far:

"type" of information/data seems to wide for the purpose. Numerical/text/financial/psychological are types. I feel that "name, adress, temperature of the day, gross margin..." are too narrow to fill a whole "type".

"field" cannot be used as it for a whole business process involving tens of forms, data that stays in the background, information on spreadsheets, information transmitted through phones, snail mail, email etc. The data used does not necessarily go on a form or a spreadsheet.

"category" seems to fit the 6 or 7 fields that, for example, identify a client (name, surname, middle name, address, id # ...). In my mind, that would constitute a category of information, i.e. identification constitute a category of data.

"piece" of data/info is okay for a single entry, "John Doe" is a piece of info, "address"/"margin"/"date of entry" is not a single piece.

listing, record, catalogue, account, roll, file, tally seem all too narrow/ too wide, too specific to a field of interest.

  • i'd actually use "field" these days, since it's so obvious what it means, due to the ubiquitous computing use. – Fattie Jun 3 '15 at 12:59
  • Well, I'd call one of them a "datum", but then the plural is "data", which has a very common yet different meaning. – Hot Licks Jun 4 '15 at 11:28

meant to post this days ago but I was on my lunch break and ran out of time, anyway:

How about "variable".

You could say you're collecting information used by the people involved in a business, involving over 40 variables, such as client name, price, price index, address,quantities sold, stocks etc.

"parameter" might work too. Or "attribute"

To be honest though, field isn't bad either.

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The word usually used is simply datum.

It is the singular of the word data and describes any single piece of information.

It is true that nowadays, data is used as a singular word describing information. However, in the scientific world in particular, a datum is still widely used to reference a single entity. It is also used in combination with other nouns, for example a datum point or a datum entry.

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  • If I understand the definition correctly, a single datum would be John or 1255, Main st. This is not what I'm looking for. But thanks for the info. – P. O. Jun 3 '15 at 12:38
  • But in the example given, the word would be data (plural): "...involving tens of steps and around forty different #### of information," which sounds really odd given the usual use of data. – Andrew Leach Jun 3 '15 at 12:38
  • Granted. It would need rephrasing as "..forty different datum points" or similar. – Chenmunka Jun 3 '15 at 12:43
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    it has nothing to do with "data". one piece of data is sort of "any fact". this is a specific "field" from a list thereof. "item" is the best equivalent when "field" does not quite work. – Fattie Jun 3 '15 at 12:58
  • It isn't that data is "used as a singular word", as much as it is used as a mass noun. Wikipedia covers this – T.E.D. Jun 4 '15 at 10:27

Would it be "item" the word you're looking for?

from MW

  • item (noun) "a separate piece of news or information" e.g. "He always orders the most expensive item on the menu."

from TFD

  • item (noun) "a clause of a document, a bit of information, a detail." e.g. "Here is the insurance form. Please fill in the blank items."
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  • 1
    sure, it's "item". that simple. – Fattie Jun 3 '15 at 12:58

Database theorists might suggest column, from the 2-dimensional table model (rows being the individual records). I think most people use 'field' to describe what you're after, although as you indicate this can cause confusion with the controls (eg text boxes) displayed on a form, which aren't quite the same thing.

"Attribute" might also work: "a property, quality, or feature belonging to or representative of a person or thing".

(second edit: just to mention if you weren't aware that the task you're undertaking would be described as documenting the "schema" or "metadata" and there are recognised standard practices for doing that).

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  • What you're propsoing is very connoted toward database admin/computer field. 'm looking for something more global. But attribute might work. – P. O. Jun 5 '15 at 11:41

The datacentric term for field would be attribute, which is a semantic concept and neutral as to where (or if) it happens to be instantiated. Attributes have values (corresponding to the contents of a field), and are properties of entities, in turn defined as objects (people, places, and things) of interest to the business. So an attribute of the entity Person might be Date of Birth, and (for a given instance of Person) its value might be June 2, 1998. (And of course it could be used on dozens of forms, spreadsheets, ID cards, etc.)

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Data point(s) or Criteria look like they might work here.

"... over 40 different data points."

You wouldn't need to add "{blanks} of information" as after that would be redundant. If you really needed to add that you could maybe say "...bits of information", but that's just extra.

I work in the digital marketing industry and when it comes to projects we'll either say "We're looking for {x} data points, and we'll know we've reached that when we've achieved {y} criteria."

Hope this helps.

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"Pieces of information" is certainly an idiomatic choice here.

Here's an ngram.

P.S. We would also say "dozens of steps" rather than "tens of steps".

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  • Pieces of information would encompass all the data and the names for every category, isn't though ? As if you were talking about a spreadsheet, it would be the word that would describe only each column name, not their content. – P. O. Jun 3 '15 at 12:47
  • The phrase "pieces of information" refers to the content. It implies that the information can be understood as a set of discrete elements, that one could create a placeholder or slot (or database field) to hold each piece of information. The word "pieces" does not imply anything about giving a name to each of these pieces. I have seen it used in your context thousands of times. Consult the ngram for attestations. Your understanding of "piece" (in the body of your question) is too rigid. Piece is not that precise. John Doe is two pieces of information, or one. – TRomano Jun 3 '15 at 12:56
  • «"pieces of information" refers to the content» is exactly what I'm not looking for, I'm looking for the different "content holders" of a set. Describing the individual names of each column (in the example given). BTW I've edited my post for tens vs dozens following your comment. Thanks – P. O. Jun 3 '15 at 13:30
  • But the phrase also refers to the "pieceness" of the content. The idea is that the data consist of discrete pieces to which names could be given. I think you're making a problem where none exists. – TRomano Jun 3 '15 at 15:16

Try snippet

small piece of information or news

or its synonym


a small thing such as an idea or a fact that people think of as valuable

Although they could be a bit informal for your requirements.

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  • It does not work. A snippet or nugget is an entry, a piece of info. I'm llooking for the description that would title this datum. – P. O. Jun 3 '15 at 13:34

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