84 ABA Journal Bryan Garner on Words articles.
Let’s try a 20-question quiz. The object is to select the choice that writers, editors and book publishers have overwhelmingly used over the past several decades. We’re assessing your knack for standard written English. We’re testing your feel for plurals, possessives and subject-verb agreement. These are grammatical issues, not word-choice issues. See how you fare.
Oct 1, 2020 1:10 AM CDT
Regardless of whether Shakespeare used playhouse closings to write great drama, it’s worth asking yourself: What should I do during periods of isolation? Bryan A. Garner, the president of LawProse Inc., explores.
Aug 1, 2020 12:35 AM CDT
Should schoolchildren be taught standard English grammar? The traditional view, of course, is yes. The contrary position is we shouldn’t insist people learn standard written English. Instead, we should teach everyone to be tolerant of regional and class dialects—not just accents but dialects.
Jun 1, 2020 12:40 AM CDT
“In my office, colleagues are evaluated on the worth of their edits: Everyone is expected to make the types of edits that professionals at the copy desks of major magazines would make. The idea is that the final product should sing,” says Bryan A. Garner, president of LawProse Inc.
Apr 1, 2020 1:10 AM CDT
In Bryan A. Garner’s view, Judge Thomas M. Reavley of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals shows us how to spend more time thinking and less time writing.
Feb 1, 2020 12:45 AM CST
The best way to damage an adversary’s positions when responding is to quote that person’s own words back to the judge or jury and then to demonstrate how inaccurate they were.
Sep 1, 2019 1:00 AM CDT
Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) is known as a philosopher, economist and legal theorist whose work greatly influenced 19th-century legislation. He embarked on reforming many things, including legal language. A utilitarian, Bentham detested legal jargon, which he called the “perversion of language to the purpose of securing ignorance and misconception of the law on the part of the people.” It “converts the whole field of legislation into a thicket, impenetrable to the legislator’s eye: when he does work, he works blindfold; he works at random, at the hazard of creating more mischief than he cures.”
Jul 1, 2019 1:45 AM CDT
Professional copy editors tend to edit by rules that can be studied and learned. For each passage, choose the best answer that says something true about the quiz sentence.
May 1, 2019 2:00 AM CDT
Although some lawyers and judges will always care more about policy arguments, nobody can safely ignore grappling with textual arguments.
Apr 1, 2019 1:15 AM CDT
Among language lovers, Johnson O’Connor is best known for his work in understanding how vocabulary augmentation is a major key in unlocking human potential. O’Connor used these words in the 1940s to test American adults, some college-educated and some not.
Mar 1, 2019 1:15 AM CST
Seeking to bring the scientific method to bear on readability, Rudolph Flesch advocated a simple and direct style of writing: short paragraphs, short sentences, few prefixes and suffixes, and relative informality. He developed two measures for assessing readability: (1) reading ease and (2) human interest.
Jan 1, 2019 2:15 AM CST
Some contractual provisions, perpetuated in deal after deal, make no literal sense. The problems are threefold: (1) whenever such a document is retyped, clerical errors are likely to occur; (2) the sameness of the party designations leads to cognitive difficulties for all readers—including the drafters themselves—because the only visual difference is the two-character suffix at the end; and (3) clients tend to resent such documents not just for their unreadability, but also for their appearing to be forms that the lawyer took little care in adapting.
Dec 1, 2018 1:55 AM CST
In each question that follows, one choice is a misusage that wouldn’t pass muster with a good copy editor. See whether you can recognize the traditionally correct forms.
Nov 1, 2018 1:30 AM CDT
Over time, words can change in spelling, meaning and pronunciation. In this quiz, choose the pronunciation favored in the late 19th century through the 20th.
Oct 1, 2018 1:25 AM CDT
The novelist’s posthumous 1920 essay collection, Learning to Write, inspires an interrogatory with the ABA Journal’s legal writing advocate.
Sep 1, 2018 2:00 AM CDT