Accepting this argument is to generously reward Bigcorp for continuing its bad conduct.
Now that generously is where it naturally belongs, I see two more problems. First, the writer is using the indicative mood to describe something that is only a possibility: the court’s accepting Bigcorp’s argument. The sentence needs the subjunctive mood, which is used to describe things that are only possible but not certain:
Accepting this argument would be to generously reward Bigcorp for continuing its bad conduct.
We’re almost there—one more problem to fix. The sentence lacks parallel structure on both sides of the verb would be: a participial phrase one one side, and an infinitive phrase on the other. The writer evidently wants to equate the things on either side of the be verb. So the writer should use the same grammatical structure for those two things. One way to achieve parallel structure would be to convert the opening participial phrase to an infinitive phrase, to match what’s on the other side of the verb. Thus:
To accept this argument would be to generously reward Bigcorp for continuing its bad conduct.
The sentence is clearer than it was when we started, and it more accurately says what the writer was trying to say. But now something else bothers me: the verb would be. That verb does not convey the action that the writer is trying to describe. The verb needs to be reward, because (according to the writer) reward is what the court would actually be doing if it accepts Bigcorp’s argument. Thus:
Accepting this argument would generously reward Bigcorp for continuing its bad conduct.
Bryan Garner has been running a series of posts on writing superstitions. Today’s installment addresses starting a sentence with because. (It’s okay to do so.) A prior post refuted the superstition against starting a sentence with a conjunction.
Here at T(N)LW, we squash these two superstitions—and a few others—with this advice: Any part of speech can serve as the first word of a sentence. This means that any word can serve as the first word of a sentence. Anyone who tells you any different does not know how to write.
It’s good to know what you really shouldn’t do. But please let’s enjoy the freedom of knowing what, as writers, we can do. One of those things is starting a sentence with any part of speech.
I cannot talk about superstition without thinking of Stevie Wonder. So here is is. Whether or not you’ve had your daily dose of funk, enjoy. (If you have not, all the more reason to watch.)
Often we think that we do not know enough to be able to teach others. We might even become hesitant to tell others what we know, out of fear that we won’t have anything left to say when we are asked for more.
This mind-set makes us anxious, secretive, possessive, and self-conscious. But when we have the courage to share generously with others all that we know, whenever they ask for it, we soon discover that we know a lot more than we thought. It is only by giving generously from the well of our knowledge that we discover how deep that well is.
If you ever considered starting your own blog, maybe this will be a word of encouragement.
Does a modifying phrase following a list of nouns or phrases modify each item on the entire list, or only the last item? That depends on whether the modifying phrase is separated from the last item by a comma. So concluded the U.S. Second Circuit in AIG v. Bank of America, decided April 19. Writing for the court, Judge Leval gave this example:
[T]he statement, “This basketball team has a seven-foot center, a huge power forward, and two large guards, who do spectacular dunks,” differs from the statement, “This basketball team has a seven-foot center, a huge power forward, and two large guards who do spectacular dunks.” The first statement conveys that all four players do spectacular dunks. The latter statement conveys that only the guards do so.
For reasons known only to themselves, the good folks at Google are cancelling the Google Reader come July. If you have been using Google Reader to follow blogs (including this one), and if you are still looking for another reader, then I recommend Feedly. I have been giving it a workout the past few days, and now that I’ve got the hang of it, I like it better than Google Reader.
Over on a certain social-networking site, I referred to “The Blind Boys of Alabama’s version of ‘Amazing Grace.’” Which got me to wondering whether I put the apostrophe-S in the right spot. Should it be “Blind Boys’ of Alabama”? What do you think?
Last week, a Florida appellate court reversed an award of attorney’s fees awarded following an offer of judgment because “ambiguities in the offer prevent its
enforceability.” The cause of the ambiguity: misplaced apostrophes:
The offer was apostrophe-challenged, creating ambiguities as to
whether the drafter intended references to singular or plural defendants
or plaintiffs. The offer, entitled “Defendant’s Joint Proposal for
Settlement,” also appears to have been adopted from a form without
sufficient editing; it requires “Plaintiff’(s)” to “execute a stipulation,” and
“Plaintiff(s)” to “execute a general release of “Defendant(s).”
This case reminds me of a recurring question: Is it “attorney’s fees” or “attorneys’ fees”? Garner’s Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage says that either is okay. The former is prevalent, but the latter may be preferable when more than one attorney is referred to.
p.s. (23 Apr. 2013): To read Garner’s take on “attorney’s fees” v. “attorneys’ fees,” click here.
I just returned from my first meeting as a member of the Scribesboard of directors. I knew that these were my kind of people, but I had no idea how much so until I read the minutes from last year’s meeting, which included this item:
Approval of minutes: Mark moved and Beth seconded the motion to approve the minutes with a corrected comma on page 3. The motion passed....
On a related note: If you are reading this blog, then you would probably enjoy being a member of Scribes. So if you are not already a member, please consider signing up.
I started this blog as a statement against—something. Something that, until today, I did not know the name of: the mindless, formulaic stuff that too many of us are forced to read daily. God bless Mark Herrmann for naming it: “big firm mediocre.” Read Mark’s piece; I guarantee that you will be both entertained and edified. (Hat tip to Sue Liemer at Legal Writing Prof Blog.)