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January 24, 2019

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Ellen Wertheimer

This is a very interesting and helpful list of rules. Might I add one? Parts of speech should be used correctly. The word "quote" is not a noun in the sense in which you are using it. The noun form is "quotation."

I have a list of linguistic pet peeves, of which this is one. Another is the use of "disinterested" to mean "uninterested." It does not; "disinterested" means "objective." Yet another is the use of the word "impact" to mean "affect." The only things that can be impacted in the sense in which many use this word are teeth.

And don't get me started on the common use of the word "seasonable" by weather forecasters!

Steve L.

Thanks, Ellen. May I quote you on that?

Also, as I should have noted, the rule against successive quotations does not apply to dialog.

Jennifer S. Hendricks

I have found in the last few years that student law review editors are constantly moving "however" to the beginning of the sentence.

James

I hate it when people use "alternately," when they mean "alternatively."

Howard Wasserman

I like these (and am going to share them with my budding-writer teen-ager). I would add: 1) Limit (if not eliminate) the use of adverbs and 2) if a word can be both a verb and a noun, use the verb form.

Jim Gardner

Place modifiers as close as possible to the words or phrases they modify. Thus:

"I prefer as strongly as possible to place modifiers close to the words they modify."

Not -- law review editors take note! --

"I prefer to place modifiers close to the words they modify as strongly as possible."

On avoiding adverbs -- remember Tom Swifties? From the Fun with Words site:

"I need a pencil sharpener," said Tom bluntly.
"I only have diamonds, clubs and spades," said Tom heartlessly.

Steve L.

Stephen King: "The road to hell is paved with adverbs."

Enrique Guerra Pujol (priorprobability.com)

Great guidelines. I am going to share them with my students and post them on my wall!

Rick Bales

1. Never use 2 words when you can say the same thing with one. Editing is the attempt to say more with fewer words.
2. Never use a complex word when a simple one accomplishes the same thing. Legal writing already is complex enough without adding layers of Latin, jargon, nominalizations, and other designed-to-impress language on top of it.

Anthony Gaughan

Great writing advice, Steve. I agree with all of your rules. However, like Jennifer, I find that law review editors usually move the word "however" to the beginning of sentences. It has become so frequent that I have preemptively begun doing it myself.

Steve L.

Thanks, Tony. I wonder how law review editors collectively came to such an odd and unjustifiable conclusion. But I urge you never to yield, as they seldom understand what they are doing. I am not sure I have ever encountered a law review editor who understood the distinction between "which" and "that."

In my experience, law review editors will always relent (as well they should).

anon

Please explain the distinction between "which" and "that" ... in simple terms.

The typical discussion (restrictive/nonrestrictive) is always confusing!

Enrique Guerra Pujol (priorprobability.com)

Reply to Anon (3:42PM): use “that” when there is no comma; use “which” only after a comma.

Example:

That: From a practical perspective, it was not the formal enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment that eradicated this peculiar institution. Rather, it was the blood spilled in such costly battles as Bull Run, Chickamauga, and Gettysburg that settled the festering constitutional question of slavery once and for all.

Which: From a practical perspective, it was not the formal enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment, which was enacted in 1865, that eradicated this peculiar institution. Rather, it was the blood spilled in such costly battles as Bull Run, Chickamauga, and Gettysburg that settled the festering constitutional question of slavery once and for all

erika

Anon, the comma rule will trip you up, if you don't know proper punctuation rules. And Enrique is focusing on a different use of the word "that." The trick is to master the restrictive/nonrestrictive inquiry. Think of it this way: "an A that/which is B." If there are other types of A as well, use THAT. If there aren't, use WHICH.

The cow that I own is purple.
Cows, which are bovines, are ungulates.

anon

Erika

That is GREAT ... very cool formulation.

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