RE: Nit picky grammar question

Subject: RE: Nit picky grammar question
From: Christine -dot- Anameier -at- seagate -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 11 Jan 2001 15:23:25 -0600

> I think the grammatical correctness becomes more obvious
> when you make "headquarters" the subject of a sentence.
> a) Headquarters requires all personnel to wear an identification badge. .

Hate to split hairs, but I think this is a different use of the term

The question "Where is/are your headquarters?" refers to the physical
plant. But "Headquarters requires all personnel..." uses "headquarters" to
mean "management" or some similar collective noun -- an entity rather than
a place. In that usage, I think it becomes grammatically equivalent to
other organizational entities: Engineering, Public Relations, Marketing,
Facilities, Operations... all of which are treated as singular no matter
whether the individual words read as singular out of context. So I don't
think that example necessarily proves the point.

Merriam-Webster online has:
Main Entry: head·quar·ters
Pronunciation: -t&rz
Function: noun plural but singular or plural in construction
Date: 1647
1 : a place from which a commander performs the functions of command
2 : the administrative center of an enterprise (at has the following:
head·quar·ters (hdkwôrtrz)
pl.n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb) Abbr. hdqrs., h.q., HQ, H.Q.
1. The offices of a commander, as of a military unit, from which orders are
2. A center of operations or administration: 'The company has its
headquarters in the suburbs' . . .
Usage note: The noun "headquarters" is used with either a singular or a
plural verb. The plural is more common: "The headquarters are in Boston."
But the singular is sometimes preferred when reference is to authority
rather than to physical location: "Battalion headquarters has approved the

Based on these definitions, I would suggest that "where are your
headquarters" is correct, or at least the more common of two arguably
correct options.

But I still think the issue of grammatical correctness is a red herring
here. The real question is, how can we phrase this so that readers don't
take a mental detour to ponder it?

Christine Anameier
(contract tech writer; opinions expressed here are my own, etc. - I better
write a sig one of these days)

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