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LawProse Lesson #207: Three ways to improve a statement of facts.

Three ways to improve a statement of facts. First, let it progress naturally from beginning to end—almost invariably in chronological order. Just tell the judge your story of the relevant events that gave rise to this legal dispute. Presenting the … Continue reading

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LawProse Lesson #206: Statutory and Contractual Interpretation.

What important skill is most generally lacking among law-school graduates? Almost certainly this: the ability to develop, hone, and deliver arguments about the interpretation of contracts and statutes. Lawyers often spend months working on text-based cases without realizing that their … Continue reading

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LawProse Lesson #205: Lay, v.t. vs. lie, v.i.

Lay, v.t. vs. lie, v.i. These two short verbs can cause tall trouble. Let’s lay down some helpful guidelines so we won’t be accused of lying down on the job. Lay means “to put down, place, or arrange.” It’s always transitive—it … Continue reading

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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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