March 15, 2008
taking a detour
In a recent post to her Business Writing blog, Lynn Gaertner-Johnston wrestled with the question of whether to use incorrect grammar with certain audiences so as to be "accepted" by that audience. In other words, is it possible to alienate your listeners or readers by correctly using "whom" in a sentence when casual speakers always say "who"?
She got a great response from one of her readers, whose comment suggests adopting neither the ungrammatical nor the stuffy-yet-correct construction. Instead, find a way to "write around the problem" by rewording the idea to avoid the difficult choice.
I heartily agree with this advice, particularly when dealing with busy law students who claim, for example, that they "always" have trouble using semi-colons (okay, just write two shorter sentences) or that they "never can remember" the difference between imply and infer (okay, say that the evidence persuaded the jury to find x). Think of it as just finding another route to get from point A to point B, taking a detour. You might try a classroom exercise in which you give the students several sentences representing common errors and ask them to rewrite the sentences to avoid the errors altogether.
March 15, 2008 | Permalink
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