Have you ever wondered if you should use singular or plural pronouns for a company?
The general guideline is to use the singular personal pronoun it to refer to a company or similar organization. This post explains the reasoning behind this guideline—and then shares two situations when you may want to use plural first-person pronouns (we, us, our, ourselves) or plural third-person pronouns (they, them, their, themselves) for a company, instead.
The General Guideline: Use the Singular Pronoun It for a Company
A company name (e.g., Target, Cabela’s, Cracker Barrel) is typically viewed as a collective noun. A collective noun represents a collection of related things or people operating as a group.1 The singular pronoun it is normally used for collective nouns; therefore, it should be used for a company when writing from a third-person (outsider’s) perspective.2
Comfort Roast Café is serving its famous meatloaf dinner tonight.
Trader Joe’s announced that it will reduce plastic packaging in the coming year.
This guideline also applies to company names that end in a plural s (e.g., American Eagle Outfitters, eBags, Bass Pro Shops) and company names created from multiple names (e.g., Abercrombie & Fitch, Dave & Buster’s, Harry & David).3
Bath and Body Works periodically rereleases its classic scents.
Ben & Jerry’s offers thirty-minute tours at its factory in Vermont.
But what if you’re not an outsider?
Exception 1: When to Use Plural First-Person Pronouns for a Company
If you’re part of the company, you may want to use the plural first-person pronouns we, us, our, and ourselves in less formal documents.
Less formal documents may include marketing material, website content, blog posts, internal communication, and even some technical manuals.
Please contact us if you have trouble assembling your new Fantastic Feline cat condo.
Generic Company wants to provide all our customers with personalized service.
There’s no official rule governing the use of first-person pronouns for companies. Instead, this usage has gained widespread acceptance because businesses want to seem personable when talking or writing about themselves. Therefore, you will have to decide if this informal usage is appropriate for your company and your content.
However, don’t refer to your company with first-person pronouns in legal documents or other formal documents without approval from your company’s legal advisor.
Pro Tip: Include a section about preferred pronouns in your company’s house style guide.
Exception 2: When to Use Plural Third-Person Pronouns for a Company
British English generally treats collective nouns as plural rather than singular.4 So, if you follow British English instead of American English, you can usually use the plural third-person pronouns they, them, their, and themselves for an individual company.
But, if you’re not writing in British English, stick with the singular pronoun it or plural first-person pronouns explained in the sections above.
Recommended Reading: Subject–Verb Agreement for Sports Teams
1. Merriam-Webster, s.v. “collective noun (n.),” accessed January 19, 2019.
2. The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), 5.15.
3. The Associated Press Stylebook 2019 (New York: Associated Press, 2019), 55.
4. Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Modern English Usage, 4th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 180.