Collective Nouns and Victimhood

I just read this brief story entitled Why the stock market does not reflect the economy. The story is not the important point here, the use of language is.

In the first five sentences, the writer uses three “collective nouns:”

  • “the market”

  • “the economy”
  • “Washington”

The use of collective nouns (and pronouns) is a KPI (key predictive indicator) of victimhood. Much of the news copy today is filled with them. In addition to those listed above, you will hear: the Administration, the White House, experts, researchers, scientists, et al. Sadly, these journalists like the one mentioned above are not the only ones to succumb to this disease. In our organizations, we say things like, “Marketing just doesn’t get it,” “Customer service is out to lunch,” and “Sales really blew it this time.”

Do not fall prey to these grammatical Grendels. If you catch yourself using them, ask “Who in marketing doesn’t get it?” Get specific, don’t be a victim.


  1. Ed,

    Doesn’t that all come back to the fact that “they” do many things? “They” is the ultimate collective noun. “They” say, “they” do, “they” make me a victim.

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