Is it possible to write a technical, academic, scientific article that is concise and intelligible to the average reader? Yes, it is. For proof, check out Running Speeds of Crippled Coyotes. And the next time you have to explain something scientific or technical, try to do it as clearly and concisely as these guys.
Q: If an adverb can modify an entire clause, then what’s wrong with hopefully as such a modifier?
A: Not a damn thing. And there’s no reason why that clause-modifying adverb can’t be the first word in the clause. John McIntyre explains.
The real issue isn’t using an adverb to modify a clause or putting that adverb up front. It’s the meaning of hopefully. As explained in Garner’s Modern American Usage, hopefully traditionally means “in a hopeful manner.” But it is widely used in American English to mean “I hope that” or “it is to be hoped that”; so much so that GMAU concedes that “the battle is now over. Hopefully is now a part of AmE, and it has all but lost its traditional meaning.”
My suggestion: In your own writing, restrict hopefully to its traditional sense if you want to or have a reason to. Just don’t condemn anyone who uses it the way most people do. If a sentence starting with hopefully grates on your nerves, take a deep breath. And remember that language flows where it will as sure as the Mississippi River does.
How most of us write e-mail:
- Fill in the recipients.
- Write the subject line.
- Write the body of the e-mail.
- Attach the attachments.
Over at Daily Writing Tips, Mark Nichol has a useful tip for evaluating the coherence of your writing: reverse outlining. Try it, and you’ll find out whether the structure of your brief or memo is sound and whether your thoughts are logically ordered.
Can you put a picture in a legal brief? If the brief is for a U.S. Court of Appeals, you sure can. Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 32(a)(1)(C) allows photographs, illustrations, and tables to be reproduced in a brief by any method resulting in a good copy of the original.
How do you insert a photograph into a brief? In Word, move the blinking vertical line* to the place you want to insert the photograph. Then click Insert on the menu bar, move your pointer to Picture in the drop-down menu, and follow your nose. Once the photograph is inserted in the brief, right-click on the photo and select Show Picture Toolbar from the little menu. You’ll then get a little toolbar that you can use to edit the photo.
Legal Writing Prof Blog has a nice post today with links to two trial-court briefs incorporating photos. And here is an excerpt from a brief I wrote a few years back, using a photograph illustrate the client's product.
* I have no idea what the correct term is for that vertical blinking line.
At Daily Writing Tips, Mark Nichol suggests using they and its derivatives as a singular pronoun when the sex of the one referred to may be male or female. Prescriptivists may protest, but Mark points out that
the singular they is widely accepted in written British English, and it is well documented in the works of many great writers, including Auden, Austen, Byron, Chaucer, Dickens, Eliot, Shakespeare, Shaw, Thackeray, and Trollope. It was the singular pronoun of choice in English for hundreds of years before, in 1745, an otherwise-reasonable grammarian named Anne Fisher — yes, a woman — became possibly the first person to champion he as the universal pronoun of choice.
If you disagree, Mark invites your reply. At the bottom of his post is a poll where you can vote for your preferred way to someone whose sex is unknown.
*Apologies to Sinn Fein.
Oxford University Press recently released the third edition of Bryan A. Garner’s dictionary of legal usage.
It’s Its predecessor, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage (2d ed. 1995) is 16 years old, so it was due for an update. The third edition has a new title, Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage. It also features citations for illustrative quotations (the first and second editions omitted those citations). OUP lists the selling price as $65, but I got mine from Amazon.com for considerably less.
If you take your legal writing seriously, you need a book like this within arm’s reach of your desk.