Is this wrong? “Samsung has released a new product. They worked really hard on it.”
According to style books, it is ungrammatical. “Nouns that denote a unit take singular verbs and pronouns” says the AP stylebook.
Let’s look a bunch of instances. In the groups of statements below, which seems right to you?
1a. Dell has announced a dividend.
1b. Dell have announced a dividend.
2a. If Facebook thinks it can avoid regulation, it has another thing coming.
2b. If Facebook thinks they can avoid regulation, they have another thing coming.
3a. If the Miami Heat wins, it will be in first place.
3b. If the Miami Heat wins, they will be in first place.
3c. If the Miami Heat win, they will be in first place.
4a. At Consolidated Consulting, we put your needs first.
4b. I am the CMO at Consolidated Consulting. We put your needs first.
4c. Consolidated Consulting put your needs first.
4d. Consolidated Consulting puts your needs first.
While I’m a content editor, not a copy editor, I frequently encounter people whose natural writing style leads them to treat companies as plurals — but not in every situation. They would choose 1a above because it refers to Dell as a company, either 2a or 2b depending on their mood, 3b, and 4a. They have no problem referring to companies as plurals when they’re thinking about the employees but as singulars when describing their corporate actions. Following what copy editors have corrected in my own writing since forever, I have regrettably change all of these to singulars. This would leave us protesting “Samsung released a new product; they worked hard on it,” because Samsung is an “it,” not a “they.”
In British English, this rule is already gone. And in America, it’s increasingly hard to defend. I tell people to write about their company as “we.” That’s hard to do when the company has to be an “it.”
There are all sorts of workarounds — referring to the employees, for example: “Samsung’s engineers worked really hard on it; they deserve credit.”
But where it seems natural and doesn’t raise agreement questions, I’m inclined to be more tolerant of the plural company. It’s one of those rules that will probably be gone in a few years. Until then, it’s becoming harder and harder to defend.