Two journals—the West Virginia Law Review and the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy—have recently returned their first round edits to me. Both journals did a splendid job on all fronts and, I find myself indebted to, and humbled by, some highly talented and dedicated student editors.
Still, I want to harp on one issue. Both journals, like the other journals where I have published, have asked me to refrain from contractions: write “do not,” not “don’t,” and say “cannot,” not “can’t.” I know that their suggestions, earnest and sensible, are motivated by an utterly sane desire to present a finished product that appears more mature, more professional.
Yet, I tend to doubt that contractions in fact undermine their author’s credibility and seriousness.
I know that few us can write as well as this guy (how I would be gratified simply to acquire the sobriquet of The Poor Man’s Don Herzog. . . .), but doesn’t the great—nay, the one and only—Don Herzog demonstrate in grand style that amazing ideas needn’t be leaded with the patina of formalistic prose?
Can’t we make the case that the idiom of legal scholarship is already too damn stiff and formal, and, let’s be honest, often too dreary to slog through, after a long day of teaching and committee meetings and packed office hours and a nerve wracking drive on I-75 back to the suburbs of Weston at 8 pm from Miami Gardens? Can’t we have a good dollop of humor, sarcasm, and mischief—and all of it seasoned with contractions—which can help the writing, and their attendant insights, go down easier?
Anyone interested in my modest call for reform? Won't cha consider it?