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A growing grammar problem?

I admit it. I am a complete nerd when it comes to grammar, usage and spelling. It's an honest obsession. After all, both of my parents are English teachers, and I taught high school English for ten years. As you can probably remember from your own high school English class, any teacher who spent time on grammar was a complete nerd. So what's the point? The point is that as I have made my way in the legal world, I have noticed that not many attorneys really care about grammar. I routinely receive pleadings, motions and discovery responses that contain glaring errors. For example, I recently received a Motion to Continue from opposing counsel that began like this: Comes now, Plaintiff, Jim Smith, by and through his counsels, John Doe, Esquire, Jane Doe, Esquire and Doe and Doe, LLC, and submit this Motion to Continue. In support thereof, Plaintiff submits the following: "Counsels"? That's a verb. The grammatically correct plural of counsel in this instance is counsel. What about the lack of subject-verb agreement in the first sentence? The Plaintiff submit? This is basic stuff, made worse -- in my opinion -- by the proper subject-verb agreement (Plaintiff submits) in the subsequent sentence. I am a self-admitted nerd, but I find this lack of attention to detail infuriating. Similarly, I often encounter documents from opposing counsel littered with improperly used semicolons. Full disclosure: this was one of my favorite subjects as an English teacher, so I have great affection for the semicolon. I also empathize with those who misuse it, as it is not the easiest form of punctuation to use. However, I would be remiss in a post (mild rant?) about grammar if I did not offer some guidance.

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5 comments

  1. For example, I recently received a Motion to Continue from opposing counsel that begin like this:

    —————

    Missed this one on the second draft?

  2. It’s simpler than that. If you stop correcting grammar, the errorists will have won.

  3. In the past two weeks, I heard several references to an “infamous” item, when the speaker really meant “famous.” It certainly puts a whole new spin on a news story when the speaker confuses those two words. Have you noticed this trend?

  4. @Don that one slipped by me when I was editing it, too. It has been fixed. Thanks.

  5. so much depends
    upon

    the right
    punctuation

    save when
    William Carlos Williams

    is making
    a point

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