Why Grammar Matters

A fascinating new article appears in the Loyola University Chicago Law Journal,  “Why Grammar Matters: Conjugating Verbs in Modern Legal Opinions,”  by Robert C. Farrell (Fall 2008).

The article opens with a series of questions [see if you know the answers]:

“Does it matter that the editors of thirty-three law journals, including those at Yale and Michigan, think that there is a “passive tense”?  Does it matter that the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth and Eleventh Circuits think that there is a “passive mood”?  Does it matter that the editors of fourteen law reviews think there is a “subjunctive tense”?  Does it matter that the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit thinks that there is a “subjunctive voice”?

There is, in fact, no “passive tense” or “passive mood.”  The passive is a voice.  There is no “subjunctive voice” or “subjunctive tense.”  The subjunctive is a mood.”

Does it really matter?  The article attempts to show that a knowledge of verb forms “is a very useful tool in the arsenal of legal argumentation.”

This entry was posted in Law reviews, Legal Research & Writing and tagged , by Erika Wayne. Bookmark the permalink.

About Erika Wayne

Erika V. Wayne is deputy library director and lecturer in law at Stanford Law School. Along with George Wilson, Kate Wilko and Paul Lomio, Erika Wayne has co-taught Advanced Legal Research for 3 years. Erika's interest in Open Access dates back to the 1996 when she helped in the development of the Securities Class Action Clearinghouse -- the first court designated internet site for public posting of securities litigation filings. And, she hates to pay for *anything* that should be free. She has a law degree from Penn and a library degree from Illinois.

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