If you’re writing about an organization, whether it’s a company, a team, or your own business, you’ll need to know whether to treat it as a singular or plural noun.
This can be a complicated topic, so in this post, we explore whether organizations are singular or plural and how to refer to them correctly in different contexts.
Organizations as Collective Nouns
In formal business writing, organizations are usually treated as collective nouns. This means that, although the organization consists of a group of people, it is treated as a single entity.
In British English, collective nouns can be singular or plural, but in US English, they should be referred to with singular pronouns and verbs only:
Bark n’ Bites are a leading dog food manufacturer. They were established in 1999. ✘
Bark n’ Bites is a leading dog food manufacturer. It was established in 1999. ✔
In the above example, Bark n’ Bites is a company made up, presumably, of many different individuals. However, because the company is working toward a single goal (i.e., making dog food), it is treated as a singular, collective noun.
It’s important to remember, though, that the collective noun rule doesn’t always apply.
When Organizations are Plural Nouns
Sometimes, organizations are treated as plural nouns to emphasize the roles of multiple people:
The Bark n’ Bites IT team were debating whether or not to restart the system.
In the above example, the IT team is treated as a plural noun, as the sentence is referring to the individual members within that team debating with each other.
If you do refer to an organization as a plural noun, remember to use the correct subject–verb agreement:
The Bark n’ Bites IT team were debating its options. ✘
The Bark n’ Bites IT team were debating their options. ✔
Using Plural First-Person Pronouns for an Organization
In commercial copy and less formal internal documents, it’s less common for an organization to be referred to in the singular third person. Take a look at this example:
Here at the Bark n’ Bites HQ, it has been producing quality dog food since 1999. It puts its love of dogs first, which is why your furry friend will be howling for its new bacon-flavored kibble!
While the singular it was appropriate to describe the company in the earlier example, its use here is jarring and awkward. Now, compare the same paragraph written in the first-person plural:
Here at the Bark n’ Bites HQ, we have been producing quality dog food since 1999. We put our love of dogs first, which is why your furry friend will be howling for our new bacon-flavored kibble!
Treating the company as a plural noun in this way is more personal and gives an idea of the team of people behind the organization.
Keep It Consistent
Whether you refer to an organization as singular or plural, the important thing is to remain consistent.
If you have been provided with a company style guide, stick to the noun usage it specifies. Otherwise, decide how you will refer to an organization and make sure all verbs and pronouns throughout your writing agree.
Our expert team can help make sure your noun use is consistent. Submit a free trial document to give us a try.