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October 2007
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December 2007

Wordy captions

Jerry Buchmeyer cites an incomprehensible caption, made even more incomprehensible by its rendition in all caps:


Other than turning off the cap-lock key, I don’t have the cure for this one; to paraphrase Delbert McClinton, it’s too far gone, not a thing I can do. For treatment of a less severe case, see this post I wrote three years and two blogs ago.

More help with dates

You may write the world’s most brilliant, persuasive brief, but it won’t do your client any good if you miss the filing deadline. Time and can help with that. It includes some handy date calculators, including one to calculate the number of days between any two dates, and another to calculate the nth day before or after any given date. For lawyers, it’s probably more useful than, which I wrote about last year.

Hat tip to Tom Mighell.

For writers of footnotes

If you do academic writing, then you’ll find this article interesting: When a Rose Isn't 'Arose' Isn't Arroz: A Student Guide to Footnoting for Informational Clarity and Scholarly Discourse, by Prof. William B.T. Mock, Jr. Professor Mock describes three kinds of footnotes serving three different purposes:

  • Reference footnotes, citing the authorities supporting the text.
  • Factual footnotes, providing background facts that the reader may not know.
  • Idea footnotes, placing the writer’s arguments, opinions, and analyses in a broader scholarly context.

He then describes the proper use of each kind of footnote and gives pointers for writing them.

In a footnote near the end of the article, he gives a valuable pointer that every legal researcher will find useful: When photocopying something from a book or a treatise, always photocopy the title page, both front and back.1 Later, the photocopied title page will give you all the information you need to cite the work, saving you a trip back to the library for that information.
1 If you want to save a fraction of a tree (a twig perhaps), photocopy just the front of the title page, and write on the photocopy the most recent copyright date from the back of the title page.

150 resources

Our tag line here is “A collection of resources for lawyers and other writers.” With that in mind, here is the Online Education Database’s collection of 150 resources to help you write better, faster, and more persuasively. Categories include almanacs, business and legal matters, citation styles, dictionaries, English-language skills, rhetoric, writing skills, and writing software.

Hat tip to Anastasia.

Word Perhect

Here’s Word Perhect, an on-line word processor. It lets you compose a document on whatever’s handy  (e.g. a rumpled receipt, the back of an envelope, a piece of cardboard). It actually works, sort of — I just used it to print something on the back of a travel card. Give it a spin, and make sure to try out all the features. (Hat tip to Slaw.)


If you’re looking for an ice-cool on-line dictionary and thesaurus, give the Visuwords on-line graphic dictionary a spin. Among other things, it produces “diagrams reminiscent of a neural net” to show associations between words. When you hover your pointer over a word, it displays the word’s definition. Whether or not you find it useful, you’ll have fun playing with it. (Hat tip to Ken Davis.)

As with any thesaurus, please use it judiciously. No elegant variation, please.


Evan Schaeffer has an excellent tip for legal writers who struggle to find the right words: Forget that you’re writing a brief. Instead, pretend that you’re writing a letter to someone you’re comfortable with. Says Evan, “Try to communicate what you are trying to say in a way that comes naturally to you—that is, exactly as you do when you're writing a letter or an email to someone you know.”