A Murder of Crows and A Shiver of Sharks: An Ode to the Collective Noun

A Murder of Crows.A murder of crows and a shiver of sharks.

Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s dive in.

As editors, we often have our favourite editing niches, styles, and interests. In this five-part series, I focus on some of my preferred editing-related topics, namely collective nouns (a parliament of owls!), the em-dash, the semi-colon, and the serial comma.

This week, we begin with the collective noun.

An Ode to The Collective Noun.

One of my favourite aspects of the English language, the collective noun reflect the absolute creativity and beauty of this language. Yes, they can be dramatic, absurd, weird, and confusing.

But isn’t that the best part?
  • A murder of crows.
  • A shiver of sharks.
  • A parliament of owls.
  • A skulk of foxes.
  • A gaggle of geese.
  • An unkindness of ravens. Or a conspiracy of ravens.
  • A prickle of hedgehogs.
  • A mess of iguanas.
  • A kettle of flying vultures. A committee of vultures on the ground. A wake of feasting cultures.
But wait!

What is a collective noun exactly?

Firstly, a collective noun “is a noun that describes a group of things or people as a unit.”

If you have ever wanted to know more about why these types of terms exist, look no further. Particularly, according to an article in Medium, this terminology is “designed to reflect the way that English-speakers already describe the world around them.” Terms, such as “murder of crows,” specifically are believed to have possibly originated in the 14 or 15th centuries, although it remains unclear.

Whatever the origins, these are fun and interesting ways to create a bit of drama in your next writing project.


Stay tuned for the second, third, and fourth parts of this series, which will focus on the em-dash, the semi-colon, and the controversial serial comma in-depth, and offer tips, tricks, and best practices.


What’s your favourite collective noun? I’d love to hear your suggestions! For stylistic editing projects, please visit my stylistic editing page, which lists my experience and rates. Contact me for more information about your specific needs.

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