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LawProse Lesson #224: Rethinking the dropping of “Jr.”

In recent weeks, several readers have taken issue with the idea that a man with “Jr.” appended to his name should drop it within two years of his father’s death. In our LawProse Lesson of May 2013 (#120), we cited … Continue reading

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LawProse Lesson #223: The Economist’s “Misspellings”

Every once in a while, an American will tell me that The Economist makes for wretched reading because of its many misspellings. I fear that they’re betraying both provincialism and sloth in reading. Like all other British publications, The Economist uses … Continue reading

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LawProse Lesson #222: What is a “misnomer”?

What is a misnomer? In law, a misnomer is the use of a wrong or inappropriate name—usually of a person or place—in a legal document. In nonlegal contexts, misnomer usually refers to a misdescription of a thing or concept.      You’ll … Continue reading

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LawProse Lesson #221: The fallacy of intelligibility.

The fallacy of intelligibility. Several readers wrote about last week’s lesson to say that it matters not one whit whether you “cite a case” or “cite to a case.” They said: “Everybody knows what it means.” That’s an interesting line … Continue reading

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LawProse Lesson #220: Is the verb “cite” transitive or intransitive?

Is the verb “cite” transitive or intransitive? For most of its history, the verb cite (dating from the 15th century) has been a transitive verb; that is, it takes a direct object. For example, a lawyer cites a case or … Continue reading

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LawProse Lesson #219: Are “certworthy” and “enbancworthy” bona fide words?

Are “certworthy” and “enbancworthy” bona fide words? Yes. According to the 10th edition of Black’s Law Dictionary, certworthy dates from 1965 and means “(of a case or issue) deserving of review by writ of certiorari.” It was first recorded in the 7th … Continue reading

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LawProse Lesson #218: How much argle-bargle is required for jiggery-pokery?

How much argle-bargle is required for jiggery-pokery? In the last few Supreme Court terms, Justice Antonin Scalia has used some memorable British colloquialisms—especially argle-bargle and jiggery-pokery. Argle-bargle is a chiefly British phrase that has taken on the meaning “copious but meaningless talk … Continue reading

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LawProse Lesson #217: When do you capitalize “federal” and state”?

When do you capitalize federal and state? What about congressional and constitutional?      These words have been worked hard over the past week. Maybe they’ve earned capitals on that basis alone. But let’s see what the best typographic practice calls for—keeping … Continue reading

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LawProse Lesson #216: Embracing constructive criticism.

Embrace constructive criticism.      Undeveloped writers feel instinctively that if someone else criticizes their writing, it’s a personal affront. But more experienced writers know that if you insulate yourself from criticism, you’ll find it difficult to improve. Every document … Continue reading

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LawProse Lesson #215: How do you decide which Latin phrases to italicize?

How do you decide which Latin phrases to italicize and which ones to keep in roman type? The answer depends on how thoroughly naturalized the word, abbreviation, or phrase has become in English. If the term has become so commonplace … Continue reading

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