Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Singular Sensation

My boss asked me to proof a document for her before we sent it out to be printed. I found a sentence reading, "Clothing with logos or advertisements are not allowed." I edited it to read, "Clothing with logos or advertisements is not allowed," because the word "clothing" is singular and, as the "be" verb is referring back to the subject of the sentence, "clothing," it should be the singular verb: "is." She claims that the word "clothing" is plural because it refers to multiple things, therefore the "be" verb should be plural: "are."

She thinks she's right and I'm certain that I am. I asked my sister, Amy, the grammarian, and she agreed that the word is singular but it sounds awkward to use the singular form of the verb, therefore it is correct to use the plural form even if it does not hold to the grammatical standard. I refute that it can be correct if it is not within the guidelines of correct grammar (although it does meet the requirements of "accepted grammar": phrasing or grammar which is generally accepted, though incorrect).

I agree that in everyday conversation, "are" would be accepted. However, this is in a published document for a department of a University.

I've decided to put the question up to you, my dear blogging friends. Which do you think is correct?


Lindsey said...

i would find another publication and show it to her. this is a common request and i have never seen it with "are" used. alas, most people say texans don't speak right though...

Damian said...

The best way to solve situations like this is to re-arrange the sentence.

"Clothing is not allowed with logos on it."

definitely sounds correct. Your boss may be correct if "clothing" is understood to be "articles of clothing."

To make both of you comfortable I would suggest reworking the sentence to read:

"articles of clothing with logos or advertisements on them are not allowed."

fancy nancy said...

kim--I think that the word clothing is inherently singular and would have used the is as well. Clothing = is; clothes = are. Although clothing can be multiple items, I believe the word refers to the multiple items as a whole.

Corrine said...

I agree with Nancy... It like family. One would say, "My family is going to Utah." Not "My family are..." Family meaning as a whole. Like clothing is meant a whole. :) interesting thought!

Anonymous said...

You can also change the wording to say "clothing with a logo or advertisement on it is not allowed.