Loreen’s question: “In our organization, I often see phrases such as ‘All staff is required to complete the questionnaire.’ That just doesn’t sound right to me. Shouldn’t it be ‘All staff are required…’?”
BizWritingTip response: This question relates to both collective nouns and subject and verb agreement. “Staff” is often used as a collective noun. (A collective noun is a word that appears singular but represents an entire group.) If the group is acting as a unit – in other words, everyone – you use a singular verb. In this case, the singular verb is “is.” It implies all members must do this. Including the word “all” would be redundant.
In any case, any time you use the word “all,” the verb must be plural.
All staff is required to complete the questionnaire. (incorrect – The word “all” must be followed by a plural verb.)
All staff are required to complete the questionnaire. (correct — The staff are considered individuals.)
Staff is required to complete the questionnaire. (also correct — The word “staff” is being used as a collective noun.)
Some people believe the sentence is smoother, if you insert the words “members of.” This is also fine.
All members of staff are required to complete the questionnaire. (correct)