Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Anyway, it made me giggle, so I thought I'd share. Thanks to Mr. Ortiz for the tip.
Monday, February 25, 2008
We Need Girlfriends is a web series chronicling "the adventures of Tom, Henry, and Rod, recent college graduates struggling to understand the complex world of the New York City dating scene after all three are simultaneously dumped by their long-term college girlfriends." They've gotten picked up for a pilot by CBS! Hooray!
If you're interested, Slate recently reviewed the series here.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Anyway, I'm right here. Hello.
Friday, February 22, 2008
This week everyone has gotten back their motions for summary judgment, and perhaps you are beginning work on your next assignment. To help you (and myself) over the next few weeks of brief writing, the Usage Tips between now and March 16th will focus on elementary principles of composition.
Choose a suitable design and hold to it.
A basic structural design underlies every kind of writing.... Writing, to be effective, must closely follow the thoughts of the writer, but not necessarily in the order in which those thoughts occur. This calls for a scheme of procedure. In some cases, the best design is no design, as with a love letter, which is simply an outpouring, or with a casual essay, which is a ramble. But in most cases, planning must be a deliberate prelude to writing. The first principle of composition, therefore, is to foresee or determine the shape of what is to come and pursue that shape.... The more clearly the writer perceives the shape, the better are the chances of success.
Make the paragraph the unit of composition.
As long as it holds together, a paragraph may be of any length--a single, short sentence or a passage of great duration.... Ordinarily, a subject requires division into topics, each of which should be dealt with in a paragraph. The object of treating each topic in a paragraph by itself is, of course, to aid the reader. The beginning of each paragraph is a signal that a new step in the development of the subject has been reached.... In general, remember that paragraphing calls for a good eye as well as a logical mind. Enormous blocks of print look formidable to readers, who are often reluctant to tackle them. Therefore, breaking long paragraphs in two, even if it is not necessary to do so for sense, meaning, or logical development, is often a visual help. But remember, too, that firing off many short paragraphs in quick succession can be distracting. Paragraph breaks used only for show read like the writing of commerce or of display advertising. Moderation and a sense of order should be the main considerations in paragraphing.
Omit needless words.
Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. Many expressions in common use violate this principle.
- "the question as to whether" should be "whether" or "the question whether"
- "there is no doubt but that" should be "no doubt" or "doubtless"
- "used for fuel purposes" should be "used for fuel"
- "in a hasty manner" should be "hastily"
- "this is a subject that" should be "this subject"
- "the reason why is that" should be "because"
"The fact that" is an especially debilitating expression. It should be revised out of every sentence in which it occurs. ("I was unaware of the fact that" could be "I was unaware that")
"Who is," "which was," and the like are often superfluous. ("His cousin, who is a member of the same firm" could be "His cousin, a member of the same firm")
[Since lawyers are by nature wordy, we'll do more with omitting needless words next week. Stay tuned!]
William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style, 2000, Longman Publishers, pp.15-24.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
But this time I think I've hit upon a winner. Imagine a teddy bear whose cute and cuddly face inspires thoughts of a cute and cuddly Constitutional Law professor, with jowls and big floppy ears and coke-bottle glasses sliding down his little nose, who comes alive when you press his hand with exclamations like "necessary and proper!" and "unconstitutional!" and "that's right!" He'd be wearing a teddy bear suit and everything. It's the Bearron! Wouldn't you pay $24.50 for that?
Hat tip to my partner in crime Little Benny for the totally awesome name.
[UPDATE (2/24): The Law Revue last night had a good joke about the ConLaw prof in question. Their name for him? JerrBear. Awesome!]
Teddy bear image from Wikimedia Commons.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
subjunctives. In modern English, the subjunctive mood of the verb appears primarily in six contexts:
- conditions contrary to fact: "if I were king," where the indicative would be am;
- suppositions: "if I were to go, I wouldn't be able to finish this project," where the indicative would be was;
- wishes: "I wish that I were able to play the piano," where the indicative would be was;
- demands and commands: "I insisted that he go," where the indicative would be goes;
- suggestions and proposals: "I suggest that she think about it a little while longer," where the indicative would be thinks; and
- statements of necessity: "it's necessary that they be there," where the indicative would be are.
Garner's Modern American Usage, 2003, p. 756.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Image from the Daily Mail.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
While it was kind of a big expense for me given my crushing mountains of debt, it fit neatly in my "buy this" fashion philosophy: if you have a hole in your wardrobe and find something to fill it, you should get it only if it fits you well and works with your body, not against it; you know you will use it; it's within your budget; and you LOVE it. As smarter people than I have said, "if you see something in a store and are still thinking about it two days later, you should own it." And, you can never, ever go wrong with buying a well-made classic piece in a high-quality material. A gray wool pants suit fits that category, for sure.
I love shopping, so if you ever need someone to go with you to find something fabulous, just holler!
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Today's Usage Tip comes from the always handy Elements of Style by Strunk and White. If you do not own this book, you owe it to yourself and anyone who has to read your writing to go out and buy it. Right. Now. If you consider book length-to-usefulness ratio, I would say with utmost confidence that Elements of Style is the best textbook on writing ever written.
A Few Matters of Form
Colloquialisms. If you use a colloquialism or a slang word or phrase, simply use it; do not draw attention to it by enclosing it in quotation marks. To do so is to put on airs, as though you were inviting the reader to join you in a select society of those who know better.
Exclamations. Do not attempt to emphasize simple statements by using a mark of exclamation.
It was a wonderful show! It was a wonderful show.
The exclamation mark is to be reserved for use after true exclamations or commands.
What a wonderful show!
Parentheses. A sentence containing an expression in parentheses is punctuated outside the last mark of parenthesis exactly as if the parenthetical expression were absent. The expression within the marks is punctuated as if it stood by itself, except that the final stop is omitted unless it is a question mark or an exclamation point.
I went to her house yesterday (my third attempt to see her), but she had left town.
He declares (and why should we doubt his good faith?) that he is now certain of success.
(When a wholly detached expression or sentence is parenthesized, the final stop comes before the last mark of parenthesis.)
William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style, 2000, pp.34-38.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
I was really, really hoping that the Giants would pull it out to give the cheatery cheater Pats exactly what they deserve. Children take note: hard work wins. 18-1 bitches!