How to Treat Names of Groups and Organizations
Proper names create challenges for writers and editors trying to identify an organizational entity in a way that is both accurate and graceful. For example, in general, if you would precede the name of an entity with the article the in speech, do so in writing, and if not, don’t.
This rule applies to organizations:
“Your charitable donation to the March of Dimes helps fund our mission,” not “Your charitable donation to March of Dimes helps fund our mission.” (The organization’s Web site lists the copyright holder as “March of Dimes Foundation,” with no article, but refers to itself throughout the site as “the March of Dimes.”)
“Save the Children has instituted rigorous standards in the communities it supports,” not “The Save the Children has instituted rigorous standards in the communities it supports.” (“One could write “the Save the Children philanthropic organization” to provide context, but “the philanthropic organization Save the Children” is more elegant.)
It is also relevant to corporations:
“GlaxoSmithKline PLC is headquartered in London,” not “The GlaxoSmithKline PLC is headquartered in London.”
“The Dow Chemical Company is headquartered in Midland, Michigan,” not “Dow Chemical Company is headquartered in Midland, Michigan.” (But a short form of the name would not be preceded by the article: “Dow is headquartered in Midland, Michigan.”
Usage in corporation names complicates matters somewhat, however. Some firms that include company in their name precede the name with the, and others don’t. (Careful writers and editors will check company literature for proper usage, or delegate the task to a fact-checker.) The same problem occurs when corporation is part of the name: For example, Microsoft Corporation omits the in its official corporate name, but many other such entities include it, as in the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Number agreement of proper nouns and verbs is also a significant issue. For example, in American English, names of music ensembles, whether orchestras or pop groups, are matched with singular or plural verbs depending on the name:
“Led Zeppelin was an English rock band,” not “Led Zeppelin were an English rock band.”
“The Beatles were an English rock band,” “Not the Beatles was an English rock band.” (Note, also, that the, when it precedes a band name, is not capitalized, even if band documentation uses a capitalized the.)
However, British English employs plural verbs regardless of the form of the band name: “Led Zeppelin were an English rock band,” and “The Beatles were an English rock band.”
In the United States, names of athletic teams are always treated as plural, regardless of whether the name is a singular or plural term:
“The Magic are headquartered in Orlando, Florida,” not “The Magic is headquartered in Orlando, Florida.” (Note that the house style of the New York Times is an exception.)
“The Giants are headquartered in San Francisco,” not “The Giants is headquartered in San Francisco.” (But “The San Francisco Giants baseball team is in the National League of Major League Baseball,” and “The team is headquartered in San Francisco.”)
In American English usage, metonymic team references, in which a team is referred to by the place name rather than the mascot name, are in singular form: “Orlando is on its way to the playoffs,” and “San Francisco is in a slump.”
In the United Kingdom and other countries where British English is standard, a distinction is made between the organization and the athletes as a group: In the former case, the singular form is used (“The Manchester United Football Club is the most successful football club in England”), but the plural form prevails in the latter case (“Manchester United are ahead by one point”).
Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips and get a free eBook!
- Our weekly newsletter is free (one email per week, on Tuesdays)
- You will improve your English, guaranteed.
- Get our "100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid" eBook free.
Keep learning! Browse the Spelling category, check our popular posts, or choose a related post below:
- 16 Substitutes for “Because” or “Because Of”
- How Long Should a Paragraph Be?
- 5 Examples of Insufficient Hyphenation