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“Generations have trod, have trod, have trod.”

A few days ago, Bryan Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day covered the inflection of tread. Bryan says that trodden is the past participle, while trod is the past and a variant past participle. His post reminded me of the poem God’s Grandeur, by Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.—a beautiful use of the variant past participle:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Sketches on Legal Style


Legal writing doesn’t have to be dull. In fact, with the right teacher, legal-writing lessons can be fun. Mark Cooney is the right teacher. His new book, Sketches on Legal Style, is fun, easy reading. It’s a collection of essays on legal writing, each delivered in a unique, humorous style. Two examples: “A Legal-Writing Carol” in the style of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”; “The Pleading,” a poetic lament in the style of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” Speaking of Dickens, this little book would be a great stocking stuffer for the law student or legal-writing geek in your life (including yourself!).

For lovers of parentheticals, two articles

What converts a string of case citations into a persuasive tool? A parenthetical phrase or clause following each citation, stating exactly how the case supports the point being made. We’ve all seen parentheticals, and many of us use them in brief-writing. But I have not seen scholarly attention paid to parentheticals until I recently came across these two articles:

  • Michael D. Murray, The Promise of Parentheticals: An Empirical Study of the Use of Parentheticals in Federal Appellate Briefs (September 24, 2013). Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD, Vol. 10, 2013. Available at SSRN: Prof. Murray analyzes how parentheticals are actually used in briefs to extract the techniques used by the brief-writers.

  • Eric Voigt, Explanatory Parentheticals Can Pack a Persuasive Punch (October 14, 2013). McGeorge Law Review, Vol. 45, 2013, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: Prof. Voigt illustrates how parentheticals can be used and gives seven guidelines for writing good parentheticals.

I often use parentheticals for inductive persuasion: stating the point that I want to establish, then providing a list of cases from which the point is drawn. The parenthetical tells the reader exactly why the case supports the point.