The Writer’s Toolbox – No “S” in Team

Got plans this weekend? Whether they involve watching grown men fight over a ball, enjoying cute puppy tricks, or laughing at commercials and downing snacks, chances are you won’t be giving a whole lot of thought to spelling, grammar, and usage.

And to be fair, explaining the proper use of hyphens with sports event names may not be the most successful Super Bowl party trick. But if you’ve ever been curious about how to handle some tricky sports-related spelling, grammar, and punctuation issues, read on for a glimpse at what happens when the sports and editing worlds collide.

It’s So Super
How to spell the name of the game? Official game and league websites are the primary sources of this information, regardless of what any other punctuation, spelling, or usage rules might dictate. For example, you’ll see it written several different ways, but officially “Super Bowl” is an open compound, not closed or hyphenated. And although normally Super Bowl organizers use Roman numerals to indicate specific events, they’ve chosen to go with numerical form this year’so It’s “Super Bowl 50,” not “Super Bowl L.”

What’s In A Name?
Similarly, when writing about the teams playing?or any team in your favorite sport?use the spelling preferred by the sports franchise. It’s the Toronto Maple Leafs, not the Maple Leaves.

No “S” in Team
Once you’ve got the teams and events spelled right, you may hit a stumbling point: are teams considered singular or plural? Here’s where things can get a little tricky.

The majority of sports team names end in ?s. They tend to be treated as plural nouns (or as collective group nouns involving individuals)?so they take plural verbs, as you’d expect.

Example A: The Denver Broncos are playing in the Super Bowl this year.

But what about a team like the NBA’s Miami Heat, whose name sounds as though it should take the singular form of the verb?

The answer depends on what style You’re following.

According to Canadian Press style, “names of bands or teams take singular verbs unless they end in ?s.?” This means that sports teams whose names do not end in ?s should take the singular verb.

Example B (CP style): The Miami Heat is playing today. The Chicago Bulls are playing tomorrow.

Not everyone agrees with this approach, however. While The Chicago Manual of Style doesn’t outright address the issue, Chicago?s editors make the preference clear in one of their monthly Q&A features; they suggest treating all teams as plural in form, particularly when they’re referred to in the same piece, and note that this approach is consistent with how we treat collective nouns that “?refer to the members of the group considered as individuals.?”

Example C (alternative approach favoured by Chicago‘s editors): The Miami Heat are playing today. The Chicago Bulls are playing tomorrow.

Of course, a third alternative is possible, and the Chicago editors consider it preferable: simply avoid the issue by using the city names instead.

Example D: Miami is playing today. Chicago is playing tomorrow.

There’s no right answer here, unless your editor or professor tells you to follow a particular style. Either way, remember: no matter which approach you choose, consistency is key.

Got any timely editing-related questions? Email Christina at, and you might find the answer in an upcoming issue of The Voice Magazine!

Christina M. Frey is a book editor, literary coach, and lover of great writing. For more tips and techniques for your toolbox, follow her on Twitter (@turntopage2) or visit her blog.

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