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February 2006


Here's what SPELL says about itself:

The Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL) is an organization of people who love our language and are determined to resist its abuse and misuse in the news media and elsewhere. We have almost 2,000 members in the United States and Canada. Members are from all professions and all walks of life -- doctors, lawyers, executives, engineers, teachers, writers, secretaries, students, retired people. The list could go on.

If you're proudly pedantic, this organization could be for you. Members are entitled to send a SPELL "Goof Card" to those who transgress the rules of grammar, syntax, and usage. "SPELL's bright yellow Goof Cards are becoming increasingly familiar in news rooms and broadcast studios across the country," they say.

(Hat tip to Legal Writing Prof Blog.)

Typing §, ¶, and other special characters

How do you type a §, ¶, ©, or other special characters not found on your keyboard? If you're using Word or WordPerfect, you click Insert on your menu bar, select Symbol, and choose from a menu. But there's another way to type a host of special characters, one that works in any Windows application. Just use the ALT codes on your numeric keypad. For instance, when I want to type a §, I hold down the ALT key while typing 21 on the numeric keypad. The ALT code for ¶ is 20. The codes for em-dash and en-dash are 0151 and 0150 respectively.

This works only on the numeric keypad; it doesn't work on the numbers lined up across the top of the alphabetic keypad. And it works only when Num Lock is on.

Here are some web pages I've bookmarked, listing the ALT codes for a host of special characters, including international alphabets:

Below the fold is my cheat sheet, which I've had since my DOS days. This code set isn't as full as the one linked to above, but the codes are shorter — all just two or three digits — making them easier to type and easier to memorize.

Continue reading "Typing §, ¶, and other special characters" »

Fred Rodell, Woe Unto You, Lawyers! (1939)

Here's a book you don't have to buy; the entire text is here, in glorious HTML. It's Fred Rodell's "lusty, gusty attack on 'The Law' as a curious, antiquated institution which, through outworn procedures, technical jargon and queer mummery, enables a group of medicine-men to dominate our social and political lives and our business, to their own gain." Rodell is quite cynical here — that's why I like this book. (Also available here in RTF.)

Bryan A. Garner, Garner's Modern American Usage

Gmau_1 If you don't already own a dictionary of modern American usage of the English language, then consider buying Garner's Modern American Usage, by Bryan A. Garner, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  If you already own this book or another usage dictionary, then consider buying Garner's as a holiday gift for your favorite scholar.  The publisher once sent an email giving these reasons for buying this book, all of which sound good to me:

Continue reading "Bryan A. Garner, Garner's Modern American Usage" »

Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing

"Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing is a print newsletter published by West three times a year for legal research and writing instructors and law firm and law school librarians. The newsletter provides a forum for discussing the teaching of legal research and writing, focusing on research materials, tools and theories. Among the subjects frequently covered in Perspectives are trends in electronic legal research; solutions to legal research problems; and recently published legal research and writing resources."

The best part about Perspectives is the price: it's free. You can sign up for mail delivery, or you can just visit the  Perspectives web page, where you'll find links to archived issues. Most of it is geared toward teachers of legal research and writing, but the research and writing tips would benefit practicing lawyers too.

(Thanks to for this tip, and for linking to this fledgling blog.)

Plain English Campaign

The Plain English Campaign describes itself as

an independent pressure group fighting for public information to be written in plain English. We have more than 10,000 registered supporters in 80 countries.

'Public information' means anything people have to read to get by in their daily lives.

'Plain English' is language that the intended audience can understand and act upon from a single reading.

Their web site is full of fun stuff, such as the annual Golden Bull and Foot In Mouth awards, and the Gobbledygook Generator. They also have some useful stuff, such as How to Write in Plain English and the A-Z of Alternate Words, a compendium of wordy phrases paired with less-wordy substitutes.