Put an end to sloppy copy: Part 3 – Is or Are?

Part 3: Is or Are?

Two little words that we’ve use day-in, day-out since we started school – who would have thought they could ever cause confusion?

In most cases they don’t. The simple rule is this:

Are = plural
Is = singular


• One rule IS simple
• Two rules ARE complex

• ARE you going on holiday?
• IS that your dinosaur?

• Brighton copywriters ARE brilliant
• Lucy IS the best

Problems tend to occur when the status of a subject, singular or plural, is less obvious. This can happen when company names are concerned:

A: Penguin Books are based in Antarctica
B: Penguin Books is based in Antarctica

B is correct – although the word ‘books’ is plural, the subject is singular (one company)

Sometimes this can sound weird. For example:

“McVities is launching a brand new biscuit, with a secret ingredient”

The temptation here is to say “McVities are…”, which would be wrong.

To make you feel more comfortable, or to double check you’ve got the grammar right, add in a bit more description:

“The company McVities is launching a brand new biscuit, with a secret ingredient”


Hope that helps. Now time for that chocolate digestive…

Continuing the mission to stamp out sloppy copy, look out for Part 4 in my series of grammar tips for copywriters.

lucy@lucygrewcock.comLooking for a copywriter with  a great grip on grammar? I’m here to help