Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Children from the Ricks Center will be in the building, trick-or-treating, from just after 9:00 tomorrow morning until around 3:00 in the afternoon. The children are here intermittently and escorted by teachers. It’s normally well organized and minimally disruptive.
The other event is an annual “Flash Mob” that the children put on in front of the law school on the west side of the building. That event will occur between 1:30 and 2:30 in the afternoon.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
A pronoun must agree with the noun it replaces (the “antecedent”) in number, gender, and person. Errors often occur with agreement in number. To avoid these errors, use a singular pronoun when referring to a singular antecedent and a plural pronoun when referring to a plural antecedent.
- Correct: The police read Jack Rayburn his rights.
- Correct: The police read Jack and Sue Rayburn their rights.
The same rule applies when the pronoun replaces a generic noun.
- Incorrect: The police must read the defendant their rights.
- Correct: The police must read the defendant his or her rights.
- Correct: The police
must read defendants their rights.
Collective nouns, such as court, jury, or team, are singular (unless referring to the members of the court, jury, or team), so they take singular pronouns.
- Incorrect: After the court heard the testimony, they dismissed the case.
- Correct: After the
court heard the testimony, it dismissed the case.
Indefinite pronouns, such as everybody, someone, or no one, usually take singular pronouns.
- Incorrect: Anyone would know that they should not drive while intoxicated.
- Correct: Anyone would know that he or she should not drive while intoxicated.
For more information, see Anne Enquist & Laurel Currie Oates, Just Writing 189-94 (3d ed. 2009) and Laurel Currie Oates & Anne Enquist, The Legal Writing Handbook 631-34 (5th ed. 2010).
Monday, October 22, 2012
Affect and effect are easily confused because they look alike. Further, although affect is normally a verb, effect can be either a verb or a noun, adding to the confusion. You can distinguish the two words by taking a closer look at their definitions.
Affect is a verb that most commonly means “to influence.” When used as a verb, effect means “to bring about” or “to accomplish.” When used as a noun, effect means “result” or “consequence.”
Therefore, to choose between affect and effect, you must first consider whether you are using the word as a verb or a noun. If you are using it as a verb, select affect if you mean “to influence” and effect if you mean “to bring about.” As a noun, effect will normally be the correct choice.
- The new law affects voters in several swing states. (affect used as a verb meaning “to influence”)
- The new law will effect a change in the way states recount votes in close elections. (effect used as a verb meaning “to bring about”)
- It is difficult to gauge the effect of the new law. (effect used as a noun meaning “result”)
For more information, see Anne Enquist & Laurel Currie Oates, Just Writing 160-61, 307-08 (3d ed. 2009) and Laurel Currie Oates & Anne Enquist, The Legal Writing Handbook 772 (5th ed. 2010).
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
One of the best ways to improve your writing is to use active verbs instead of nominalizations. A nominalization is a verb that has been turned into a noun. For example, as nominalizations, the verbs “state” and “assume” become the nouns “statement” and assumption.” Words that end in -ment, -ion, -ence, -ance, -ity, -ent, -ant, and -ancy are often nominalizations.
Nominalizations lead to wordiness. When you turn a verb into a noun, the sentence then requires additional verbs, prepositions and articles. Nominalizations also tend to lead to passive voice and weaker verb choice.
· Nominalization: The usage of the property by the defendants was for the storage of firewood and building materials. (17 words; passive voice; weak verb)
· Better: The defendants stored firewood and building materials on the property. (10 words; active voice; stronger verb—“stored” instead of “was”)
· Nominalization: An agreement was made by the parties to reach a decision by Friday. (13 words; passive voice; weak verb)
· Better: The parties agreed to decide by Friday. (7 words; active voice; stronger verbs—“agreed” and “decide”)
· Nominalization: The intention of Congress was for the interpretation of the statute to be made broadly by the courts. (18 words; passive voice; weak verbs)
· Better: Congress intended the courts to interpret the statute broadly. (9 words; active voice; stronger verbs--“intended” and “interpret”)
For more information on nominalizations, see Anne Enquist & Laurel Currie Oates, Just Writing 74-77, 113-14 (3d ed. 2009); Laurel Currie Oates & Anne Enquist, The Legal Writing Handbook 178-79, 521, 556-58 (5th ed. 2010); and C. Edward Good, Legal Writing & Its Cure ch. 3 (reprinted in Lawmanac—Clickable Help for Legal Writers 2009).