November 9, 2012
This blog has discussed schools’ poor grammar coverage before, but a recent incident dramatizes the problem. A student who is a native speaker of English told me she doesn’t know grammar. I thought perhaps she had forgotten some arcane rule, but she said she was never taught grammar as she went through the public school system. She explained, “I think I know what a noun is, but I don’t know what a pronoun is. Is it like a preposition?” I was taken aback. I tell my students that a pronoun should agree with a nearby antecedent, and I’ve posted a pronoun exercise on line. But I did not think a graduate student would have no idea what a pronoun is.
November 8, 2012
gender neutrality on the Supreme Court?
Our co-blogger has written a very telling study on"The Supreme Court and Gender-Neutral Language: Splitting La Difference". Here's Judy Fischer's abstract:
"Following the first term with three women on the United States Supreme Court, this article analyzes the extent to which the justices used gender-neutral language. The article presents background about the meaning, history, and importance of gender-neutral language. It then examines both biased and gender-neutral phrasing in the justices’ opinions for the 2010 term. It concludes that some justices, with Justice Ginsburg in the forefront, frequently use gender-neutral language, others use it some of the time, and still others, especially Justice Scalia, seldom use it. The article presents unobtrusive ways to avoid biased language and suggests that the justices, as leaders in the legal profession, could easily apply them."
November 7, 2012
Poor models for student writers
If students have difficulty expressing themselves clearly, that may be due to what they’re reading—and I'm not referring to bad novels or Tweets. Case opinions in law school textbooks contain some cumbersome prose, as Bryan Garner points out in the November Student Lawyer. He bluntly tells his student readers that much of their assigned reading is poorly written. To call attention to the problem, Garner is sponsoring a “Bad-Legal-Writing Contest.” Send entries to email@example.com, or see Garner’s article for further information.
November 6, 2012
Professor Emerita Tina Stark and Dean Robert Schapiro of Emory University's law school are pictured here at the dinner honoring Tina's huge contribution to legal drafting education. The dinner was part of Emory's Third Biennial Conference on Transactional Education. The conference, held last weekend, was "a veritable cornucopia of information with oodles of presentations on innovative teaching methods, new experiential opportunities, outcomes and assessments, and creating concentrations and and certificates."
hat tip: Cynthia Adams and Edna Patterson
November 5, 2012
New book on plain English for statutes
Plain English for Drafting Statutes and Rules was recently published by Cincinnati Emeritus Professor Robert J. Martineau and Tennessee Commissioner Robert J. Martineau, Jr. A promotional flyer says the book devotes attention to “the importance of the simple declarative sentence and the use of the singular noun, active verb, present tense, and the positive expression (SAPP) as the principal vehicles for achieving clarity in a statute or rule.”