Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Standard English (1).

Standard English (1).

Today: What Is It?

This is a troublesome term: we all think we know what it is, but a definition proves elusive. Broadly speaking, it is the English used by educated people. Some Britons contend that it is the English used by educated Britons, and that whatever is used by educated people in the United States is Standard American English. Some Americans refer to Standard British English, to differentiate it from American English. Among commentators, some believe ...

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Dear Dallas Morning News:

Dear Dallas Morning News:

As you know, I certainly can’t complain about the coverage I’ve generally had in the Dallas Morning News. You’ve been generous to me over the years. But I really must protest the paltry and even silly treatment of the Scalia–Garner event in the January 29 edition (believe it or not, on page 8B of the Metro section).

Let’s forget for the moment that it was a full house of ...

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

Miscellaneous Entries.

statistics = (1) the mathematics of collecting and analyzing numerical data; or (2) numerical data. Sense 1 is singular {statistics is an exacting discipline}. Sense 2 is plural {the statistics aren’t yet in}.

status (/STAT-uhs/ or /STAY-tuhs/) forms the plural "statuses" (or, in Latin, "status"), not *"stati."

status quo; status quo ante; *status in quo. "Status quo" means "the state of affairs at present"; hence *"current status quo" is a redundancy. "Status quo ante" (= the state of affairs at ...

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LawProse Lesson #103

What’s the lawyer’s single best source for typography and document design?

ANSWER: All the most important points of typography are covered in LawProse’s Advanced Legal Writing & Editing course. Professor Garner has also written a good deal about the subject in Garner’s Modern American Usage, The Winning Brief, The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style, and Legal Writing in Plain English.

But the very best in-depth treatment is to be found in Matthew Butterick’s Typography for Lawyers (2010).

Traditionally, lawyers haven’t ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: stalactite; stalagmite.

stalactite; stalagmite.

They're both deposits of calcium carbonate found in caves and caverns. The difference is that a "stalactite" hangs from the ceiling, while a "stalagmite" rises from the floor. Writers sometimes fall into error by using "stalagmite" for "stalactite" — e.g.: "The Dripstone Trail Tour is a leisurely hour-plus trek known for delicate sodastraw formations and totem pole stalagmites [read 'stalactites'] hanging from cave ceilings." Bob Puhala, "Weekend Grand Tour," Chicago Sun-Times, 2 Jan. 1994, Travel §, at 1.

But ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: squash; quash, vb.

squash; quash, vb.

"Squash" (= to flatten or soften [something] by forceful crushing or squeezing) is not a substitute for "quash" (= to overturn or make legally invalid; to suppress, as a rebellion). Many writers err on this point — e.g.:

o "The Alabama story ends for the moment with criminal indictments, and with Windom not only installed as lieutenant governor but also successfully seeing through the tort-reform legislation his opponents had tried to squash [read 'quash']." Arianna Huffington, "Happy Ending ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day:

stadium.

Although several dictionaries seem to prefer *"stadia" as the plural, "stadiums" is the more natural and the more usual form. "Stadiums" is also 30 times as common — e.g.:

o "Dozens of stadiums have sprouted up all over the country in recent years." Lisa Respers, "Funds Sought for Stadium in Aberdeen," Baltimore Sun, 28 Apr. 1997, at B1.

o "The other 25 percent of the money would go for 'regional attractions' like baseball and football stadiums in Pittsburgh." Tom Barnes, "New ...

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Don’t Anesthetize Your Colleagues with Bad Writing

It seems obvious that you shouldn’t put your audience to sleep, doesn’t it? It should also be obvious to people who deliver dull presentations or talk in circles at dinner parties — but consider how many boring speakers you’ve had to endure.

The most engaging communicators avoid trite expressions, whether in conversation or in writing. They use strong, simple words. Think of Winston Churchill’s famous phrase blood, toil, tears, and sweat. And remember what George Washington said when questioned about the ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: spring / sprang / sprung.

spring / sprang / sprung.

So inflected. But "springed" is correct when the sense is "equipped with springs" {a springed mattress} {springed hinges} or "to spend the season of spring" {they springed in Europe}. (The latter usage will strike many readers as more than a little odd.)

The real challenge with these words is to get the past-tense and past-participial forms in their proper places. Some writers spring an erroneous "sprung" on their readers — e.g.:

o "They sprung [read 'sprang'] out ...

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: sprightly.

sprightly.

"Sprightly" (= [1] lively, airy; or [2] zesty, esp. spicy, in flavor) is subject to the mischievous misspelling *"spritely" — e.g.:

o "Will she end up a bitter, washed-up star a la Baby Jane, psychologically torturing her spritely [read 'sprightly'] sis Jamie-Lynn? Let’s recap Britney's recent bizarre behavior." Tamara Ikenberg, "Not So 'Lucky," Courier-J. (Louisville), 10 Mar. 2007, at S4.

o "Jesse Aarons (Josh Hutcherson, 'Kicking and Screaming') is in middle-school hell. He's bullied in class and ignored at home. Enter ...

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

Miscellaneous Entries.

standby. The plural is "standbys" (not *"standbies").

stand in line; stand on line. While both phrases must be accepted as standard, "stand in line" predominates in most of American English. But the regionalism "stand on line" prevails in the New York City area and elsewhere in the Northeast, and it is heard (and read) elsewhere too often to be dismissed as a needless variant.

Star-Spangled Banner. Keep the hyphen.

statable. So spelled — not *"stateable."

state of the art, n.; state-of-the-art, adj. ...

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LawProse Lesson #102

Is it correct to say in regards to or with regards to?

ANSWER: No. Although we say with best regards and warmest regards, traditional English idiom demands in regard to and with regard to. Putting an s on these last two phrases has conventionally been considered poor usage.
Oddly, it is proper and traditional to say or write as regards <The witness didn’t testify as regards the defendant’s motive>. But as with in regard to and with regard to, ...

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