Copy-Editing Corner: Are Bands “It”s or “They”s?
My blog item yesterday about media organizations axing copy editors and receptionists set off a firestorm of comments about whether musical groups should be referred to as singular or plural entities. OK, actually it was two people. OK, both people commented on my Facebook page, not here. But this does not mean I can't get another item out of it!
Both schools of thought have valid points. To wit:
The "Bands Are Its" Argument
The word band is singular. Saying "Collective Soul are playing the 9:30 on Aug. 27" is as ignorant as it is a sad statement of fact. Collective Soul is a band. The band is playing on Aug. 27. It would be incorrect to say "Only a group of people with unfashionable tribal arm-band tattoos are going to the Collective Soul show at the 9:30 on Aug. 27." The antecedent is not the plural noun people, it is group, which is singular. QED.
THE PROBLEM: Some bands have inconveniently plural names. To say "The Fiery Furnaces is playing the Black Cat on Aug. 8" is to create something almost as difficult to listen to as the new Fiery Furnaces album. So this rule requires a big honking exception: "The Fiery Furnaces are playing"; unfortunately, "the band is out of ideas." It can look odd to have both forms of address in one article.
The Bands Are Theys Argument
People write sentences like "Widespread Panic are opening for the Allman Brothers Band on Oct. 6 at Merriweather Post Pavilion" because people say "Widespread Panic are opening for the Allman Brothers Band on Oct. 6 at Merriweather Post Pavilion." It's unnecessarily stilted for a publication that doesn't address people by "Mr." or "Ms." on second reference to sound so stuffy. Moreover, consonance reigns in your music section. All bands are theys.
THE PROBLEM: Why should the music section follow different rules from the rest of the publication? Because musicians lack unfashionable tribal arm-band tattoos? "Apple are releasing a new iPhone?" "The government are declaring war?" Asinine! (INTERESTING SIDENOTE: In the United Kingdom, many ostensibly singular entities are referred to as plurals: "PARTICK Thistle have found a unique way of topping last season's headline-grabbing pink kit – by launching a new away strip in camouflague." Then again, the story misspells camouflage.)
Platform agnosticism is underratedoverrated [DOH! WISH I'D HAD A COPY EDITOR LOOK AT THIS]. Just as there are features that work better online and features that work better in print, the way you talk and the way you write can be different. Anyone who's ever heard me stammer through an interview would probably agree! I say option 1.