Author Archives: Bryan A. Garner

LawProse Lesson #204: “Lay of the land” or “lie of the land”?

Lay of the land or lie of the land? Literally, the phrase means “the arrangement of an area’s terrain; topography.” Figuratively, it refers to “the facts of a given situation; the current state of affairs.” The phrase is an Americanism dating … Continue reading

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Miscellaneous Entries.

Miscellaneous Entries. libido. Although dictionaries once recorded /li-BIY-doh/ as the preferred pronunciation, /li-BEE-doh/ is now the established preference in American English. licorice (/LiK-uh-rish/) is the standard spelling. “Liquorice” is a variant form. This word shouldn’t be confused with its uncommon … Continue reading

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LawProse Lesson #203: “Lie low” or “lay low”?

Lie low or lay low?      Both phrases could be correct—it depends on the tense you are using. Use lie low in the present tense; lay low in the past tense. Ex.: The celebrity is lying low for a few weeks to avoid news … Continue reading

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LawProse Lesson #202: Parenthetical plurals.

Should you use “(s)” to indicate that a noun could be either singular or plural? Competent drafters should avoid creating parenthetical plurals and craft better ways to express a thought. A parenthetical plural is formed when an “(s)” is added … Continue reading

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LawProse Lesson #201: “Subpoena” vs. “subpena”

Why do so many federal statutes use the spelling subpena instead of subpoena?      Funny thing. It seems to be the result of an old choice made for the Government Printing Office Style Manual. The earliest copy we have at … Continue reading

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LawProse Lesson #200: Which is standard: “toward” or “towards”?

Which is standard: toward or towards?       In American English, toward has been the usual form in print sources since about 1900. Many usage authorities since then have expressed a strong preference for toward, without the final -s. … Continue reading

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: load, n.; lode.

load, n.; lode. Although they have similar etymologies, their meanings have fully diverged. “Load” (in its basic senses) means “a quantity that can be carried at one time” or, by extension, “a burden” {a load of work} {a load off … Continue reading

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LawProse Lesson #199: Persuasive openers.

Persuasive openers.      Almost all poorly written motions and briefs have one thing in common: they get off to a bad start. They have no clear, boldly expressed point. They’re mushy. How to fix that problem? Say on page … Continue reading

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: literally.

literally. “Literally” = (1) with truth to the letter; or (2) exactly; according to the strict sense of the word or words. “Literally” in the sense “truly, completely” is a slipshod extension — e.g.: “Behavioralists and postbehavioralists alike, literally or … Continue reading

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: lip-sync, vb.; lip-synch.

lip-sync, vb.; lip-synch. To lip-sync, of course, is to move one’s lips silently in synchronization with recorded vocals, whether one’s own or someone else’s. Although the dictionaries are split between the “sync” and “synch” forms, the incontestable leader in print … Continue reading

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