Singular or plural (detail or details)

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Tvita

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Could you help me to understand the following.

The report was marred by a mass of superfluous detail. (taken from Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary)

Why was the "detail" (singular) put there? I think the "details" is more appropriate in this case.

Thank you in advance.
 

fromatto

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Could you help me to understand the following.

The report was marred by a mass of superfluous detail. (taken from Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary)

Why was the "detail" (singular) put there? I think the "details" is more appropriate in this case.

Thank you in advance.

Mass is singular. A mass of information, etc.
 
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Tvita

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What about this sentence?

There is a mass of letters on my table this morning.

Why do we use "letters" in this case but "detail" in that?
 

fromatto

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What about this sentence?

There is a mass of letters on my table this morning.

Why do we use "letters" in this case but "detail" in that?

That's a very good point. I suppose you could say 'a mass of details', as in 'we have missed a mass of details in this enquiry' but typically, we say ' a mass of superfluous detail'. Would you be wrong if you said 'a mass of superfluous details' ? I no longer know.

Perhaps it is because 'detail' can mean 'all the small parts of something considered as a whole'. We talk of the detail that the artist has put into the painting. Or the detail that has gone into the model of something. Detail here, means 'painstaking work'. If we apply this to your example; the report was marred by too much attention to detail, ie, it was spoilt by the inclusion of too much information.

I'm going to hope that someone else can jump in here..............
 
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