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Once upon a time, everyone was in agreement: collective nouns (which include business names) were singular. You wrote ‘the company is heading for growth‘. Even things that sounded plural were really singular: ‘the Philippines is a group of islands‘.

It’s an easy rule that shouldn’t cause confusion. Except that it does. The trouble comes when you have to describe an activity that a multi-person entity can’t do collectively.

The band is in full swing‘ sounds fair enough. But what about ‘the band is drinking coffee‘? It’s more natural to write ‘the band are drinking coffee‘ because drinking coffee is something that individuals do, not teams.

This same argument applies to all sorts of activities. When you write ‘the team is focused on success‘, are you thinking of it as a single cohesive unit or a group of focused individuals? If you’re thinking of the individuals, you’ll probably write ‘the team are focused on success‘.

In the eyes of pedantic copywriters and old-style grammarians, you’d be wrong. But you’re not. You’re just doing what comes naturally.

Your company name can take you further down the road to plurality. If you’re Acme Gobstoppers, it’s so easy to write ‘Acme Gobstoppers deny that they are a leading source of tooth decay‘. Writing ‘Acme Gobstoppers denies…‘ may be better English, but it goes against the grain.

And this goes to the heart of the problem. If you decide to be singular (eg ‘Acme Gobstoppers is…‘), you’ll have to police your colleagues hard. Most of them will forget; many won’t even care. Where you write ‘Acme Gobstoppers is the UK’s most consistent performer‘, they’ll inevitably write ‘Acme Gobstoppers are the UK’s most consistent performer‘.

Since consistency does more for your public image than the niceties of grammar, you’d be better off declaring yourselves plural. Besides, if you write ‘Acme Gobstoppers are…‘, will anyone notice that you’ve broken the rules?

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