Collective Nouns Like 'Team' -- Making Them Agree
One of my sisters recently got into a debate with co-workers over a grammar issue and e-mailed me to ask about it. She wrote:
“Which sentence is correct?
“‘The WBL Team share how they use your comments, customer feedback, and product reviews to ensure the best customer experience.
“‘The WBL Team shares how they use your comments, customer feedback, and product reviews to ensure the best customer experience.’”
The first one says “the team share” and the second one says “the team shares.” Team is something called a collective noun. Collective nouns can be either singular or plural, depending on how they’re intended. In “The couple is waiting at the airport,” the collective noun “couple” is functioning as a unit, so its verb is conjugated as singular: is. But in “The couple are taking separate vacations,” the individuals within the collective are acting independently. So this “couple” really emphasizes plural individuals, and that’s why it takes a plural noun.
So it’s up to the writer to decide whether the “team” is functioning as a single unit or whether to emphasize the members' individuality. In this sentence, the team sure seems like a single entity to me. So treating it as singular by saying “the team shares” seems the better choice.
For good measure, I surveyed to of the editors I work with. They agreed: “The team shares” usually seems better than “the team share.”
But this sentence adds another layer of complication: “… how THEY use your comments …” That “they” treats “team” as a plural noun, which contradicts the singular nature of "the team shares." In these situations, consistency is important. If one part of the sentence treats something as a plural, simplicity dictates that the other parts of the sentence do the same.
So to be consistent, we might write “The team share how they use your comments.” This is called pronoun-antecedent agreement, in which the pronoun "they" matches its antecedent "team."
Often, the best thing to do in a situation like this is rewrite the sentence. “Members of the team share how they use …” But when that’s not an option, as it wasn’t for my sister, consistency is paramount.
She opted for “The team share how they.” If I wasn't at liberty to rewrite the sentence, that's probably what I would have done, too.