Saturday, January 28, 2006

"change" and "change out"

As a frequent HGTV viewer, I've noticed the use of the term "change out," and I wonder how this term came to be used.  As far as I can tell, "change out" means the same as "change"--as in, "Next, we'll change out these old tattered slipcovers for these trendy new ones."  Wouldn't "change" work just as well?

I checked the Merriam Webster and American Heritage dictionary websites, and neither of them notes this phrasal verb form.  Anyone know its genesis?

Note:  I'll be especially concerned if students start talking about the legislature's changing out a former statute for its amended version!!


January 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

recommended reading

A book with a surprising amount of food for thought for legal writers is Do You Speak American?, by Robert NacNeil and William Cran (Doubleday 2005).  The book is billed as "a companion to the PBS television series," and it provides a lot more detail than the TV series did, including a map of English dialects in the United States.  Although the book focuses on spoken American English, it provides interesting explanations of the interplay between spoken and written language.  It also makes some unexpected assertions about the health of the written language.  From a lawyer's perspective, knowing more about your audience and how it perceives what you're saying, whether orally or in writing, is always a good thing, and this book's forte is its explanations of language differences (and the changes in differences) throughout the U.S.  (spl)

January 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 27, 2006

LWI conference travel info

For those planning ahead, Professor Steve Johansen (Lewis & Clark), recently shared the following travel information about this summer's Legal Writing Institute summer conference:

"Date:  June 7-10, 2006
Location:  Georgia State University Campus, in Atlanta, Georgia
Registration cost: $395.00 before April 19; $445 after April 19
Hotels:  LWI has reserved a block of rooms at the OMNI:  $125/single; $135/double

"There are also dorm-style rooms reserved at the Olympic Village for $40/night. (The Village is approximately 1 1/2 miles from the conference site; we will have shuttles available.)"

LWI members can expect detailed conference brochures to arrive via snail mail soon.  Others interested in the conference should visit the LWI website for membership information.  There is no fee to be a member of LWI.  You do need to be a member to be able to attend the conference.   (spl)

January 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

pet peeve number one (one of many!)

It's pet peeve time.

“Pick up” as a verb does not have a hyphen.

“Pick-up” meant a vehicle as far back as the 1920s* (although we've now lost the hyphen and it’s all one word) and might be used as a hyphenated modifier (“a pick-up line”).  But it's not the verb form!!

One takes out food from a restaurant. One buys take-out food when one is busy.  Again, the verb form does not have a hyphen!!

Other examples?  Feel free to share.

* 1920s or 1920's?  Another debate for another post.


January 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

even beyond contingent faculty . . .

Sadly, there are entire books written on a related phenomenon--itinerant faculty (part-time lecturers and adjuncts who often put together a living and career by travelling amongst several schools).  See, for example, "The Invisible Faculty:  Improving the Status of Part-Timers in Higher Education."


January 26, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"contingent" faculty

In academia, professors who are not on the tenure track or tenured are often referred to as "contingent faculty."  In recent years, there has been a huge increase in the use of contingent faculty at universities across the United States, and a related decline in the number of tenure-track positions.  The legal writing field is one of the few in which the number of tenure-track jobs is gradually increasing, as the field becomes more professionalized.  (Whether "professionalized" is a real word I'll leave to you word hounds.)

The Association of American University Professors (AAUP) has long been an avid supporter of tenure and the academic freedom it allows.  Legal writing professors who are in contract-term or adjunct positions, and their colleagues, might not be aware that more recently the AAUP has stepped up its support of contingent faculty, too.  AAUP co-sponsors an annual Campus Equity Week and participates in the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor, which is hosts its own annual conference.

(For more information, click on the links above, which a kind reader showed me how to create.)  (spl)          

January 26, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Plain English Handbook

The SEC's handbook on Plain English is an excellent writing resource.  While its focus is on writing clear SEC disclosure documents, it has many tips that apply to all writing.  In fact, it could be used for reading assignments for some class sessions.

Find it at


January 25, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

LWI conference scholarships

The Legal Writing Institute (LWI) has just announced that it will be awarding scholarships to eligible members to attend the LWI Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, June 7-10, 2006.  The scholarships will cover the costs of travel, dorm room accommodations, and conference registration. LWI's policies for awarding scholarships, the application form, and instructions are available at:

The deadline for applications is March 15, 2006.  Recipients will be selected by blind lottery.  In addition, professors from Louisiana law schools affected by the recent hurricanes may be eligible for special funding.  (spl)

January 24, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

philosophy of punctuation

Do you have a philosophy of punctuation?  Do you share it with your students or encourage them to arrive at one of their own?  For an explanation of what a philosophy of punctuation might be and a colorful example, see  (spl)


January 24, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 23, 2006

judge scolds wordiness in indictment

Here's a great story about a judge who does NOT appreciate wordiness . . .


January 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

how schools approach conversion to tenure-track LRW positions

Over the past few years, the American Bar Association (which is the organization recognized by the United States Department of Education as the body responsible for accrediting law schools) has adopted new standards and interpretations which encourage law schools to enhance the status of legal writing professionals to more closely approximate the protections afforded to tenure-track faculty. Probably at least in partial response to this, an increasing number of schools are now in the process of adopting a system of presumptively-renewable long-term contracts, or outright tenure-track, for legal writing professors who were previously hired only for successive short-term contracts. The Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville and Western New England College of Law are just two of the schools now going through that process.

While it is fantastic to see these schools finally recognizing the worth of LRW professors and elevating them to the status they all deserve, the process of elevating professors is not without risk. For example, many schools which move to tenure-track or long-term-contract-track require professors now teaching in those programs to go through a national search and basically re-apply for their job. One could argue that it is unfair not only to the current incumbents but also to potential applicants, who have to compete against one or more “insider” candidates. Are the “national” applicants just window dressing? Is all the effort that goes into the national search really worth it?

Next, assuming that the incumbents are re-hired (which is often the case), they typically are hired with zero credit towards tenure even though they may have been teaching for many years. Many of them may have published extensively before they are hired onto the new “secure” tracks, but the “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” nature of the tenure review process may be blind to all of that work. And many schools may enforce a six-year or so “waiting period” before they are even allowed to apply for tenure, despite their long records of excellent prior teaching, scholarship and service.

I’d be interested to see what others may think about these issues. What are the pros and cons of engaging in a national search? What “credit” should be given for teaching under the prior short-term contracts? Please append your comments to this post.

(kdc)  (contributing editor Kenneth D. Chestek, Clinical Associate Professor of Law, Indiana University School of Law---Indianapolis, 530 W. New York St., Indianapolis, IN  46202, (317) 278-8574,

January 22, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)