One for All
A collective noun is one word to represent a group of objects, people, animals or ideas. Consider that noun a single concept, entity, or thing. You use them in everyday speech without thinking about them: family, school, herd, team.
Function in Business Writing
In business writing, collective nouns represent several people, things, or ideas as one single unit, so the noun represents everything/one within the group. Because the noun represents a group of individuals, it includes all the members.
For example, a business team comprises a number of individuals working jointly. The focus may be product development or sales, but each member of the team is represented by using the collective noun team.
The single noun is concise, brief and meaningful, making it easier to refer to all the members of the group/team without naming them individually.
A collective noun can serve as the subject of a sentence, so it plays an important role in making a sentence meaningful with relevant text and clarity.
Examples in Business
Collective nouns are common in the business environment. Once again, you probably know them without realizing their grammatical importance.
Team - Committee - Group - Audience - Set - Range - Catalogue - Cluster - Range - Fleet - Ream - Pair - Staff
The trick is to know how to use and refer to collective nouns in your business writing because what might seem logical is not good grammar.
Depending upon the meanings in the context, you can substitute a collective noun with a singular or a plural pronoun. The logical pronoun for a collective noun which is singular, is it. But sometimes the action in the sentence refers to what happens to each member included in the collective noun because the members are not acting collectively. Then the pronoun their refers to each member of the collective noun.
The best rule of thumb is to treat a collective noun as singular unless the members are acting individually.
The committee implemented its unanimous decision immediately.
The committee squirmed in their seats in the heat since the air conditioning was not working.
If the plural feels uncomfortable, add members of before the collective noun.
The members of the committee were squirming in their seats.
In most cases, use a singular verb when a collective noun is the subject of the sentence. But, in the same way when members in a collective noun act individually, use the plural of the verb.
Singular and plural verbs agree with the form of the collective noun.
A plural collective noun takes a plural verb. Our teams enjoy taking a break at the local restaurant.
A singular collective noun takes a singular verb. Our team enjoys the local restaurant.
When all the members of a collective noun perform an action in unison, use a singular verb.
- The research team regularly reports to the CEO.
- The range of responses supports the marketing team’s research.
- The fleet uses the headquarter’s underground parking.
When the members of a collective noun perform actions individually use a plural verb.
- The staff disagree on the proposal.
- The research pair claim opposing results.
- The audience disagree with the presenter.
If your plural verb sounds awkward, you can use the phrase members of the collective noun for clarification.
Members of the audience disagree with the presenter.
Members of the staff disagree on the proposal.
Keep It Clear
A collective noun is a handy way to refer to groups with multiple members. Use them in your business copy to help staff and clients understand how your organization works. A collective noun contains several elements but is singular.
Use the guidelines above to know which pronouns to use and whether you need a singular or plural verb. You’ll be on your way to writing clear copy to communicate your business goals.