Even More Commonly Confused Words

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Below are just a few more commonly confused words, with those post adding to this one and this one on the same topic.

Although/while – A former student recently asked me about this combination. There isn’t, as far as I can tell, a hard and fast rule on when to use each of these terms, but there may be preferred usage, and that’s what I’ll explain here.  “Although” tends to mean “in spite of the fact that.” According to Mignon Fogarty, also known as Grammar Girl, “although” is called a concessive conjunction, which means that it expresses a concession. For example, Although he admits he saw her in the crosswalk, he drove through the intersection anyway.

“While” can also mean “in spite of the fact that,” but it can also mean “at the same time.” The same sentence with the word “while” instead of “although” now has one of two different meanings. While he admits he saw her in the crosswalk, he drove through the intersection anyway. In that construction, the sentence could mean that in spite of the fact that he saw her in the crosswalk, he chose to keep driving through the intersection. This sentence might imply some indifference on the driver’s part, which may (or may not) matter to the meaning of the sentence. This same sentence could also mean that at the same time that he saw her in the crosswalk, he drove through the intersection. Perhaps there’s less driver indifference with that construction.  “While” meaning “at the same time” is more clearly illustrated in this sentence: While Patrick raked the lawn, I cleaned the windows. In that sentence, the reader more clearly gets the sense that Patrick and I are each doing two separate tasks at the same time.

The difference between “although” and “while” may be slight, but when you’re striving for precision in your writing, you might be wise to choose “although” when you’re making a concession and “while” when you really mean “at the same time.”   Read more »

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MULS to Welcome Professor Linda Edwards in Fall 2014

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faculty_lindaedwards2014-04Marquette University Law School’s legal writing professors are pleased to announce that Professor Linda Edwards, E.L. Cord Foundation Professor of Law at University of Nevada Las Vegas, will be joining us as a Boden Visiting Professor for the fall semester of 2014.

Professor Edwards is a leading scholar and leader in the field of legal writing.  She has authored five texts, three of them focused on legal writing, and has written numerous scholarly articles on legal writing, rhetoric, and law. Her recent book, Readings in Persuasion: Briefs that Changed the World (Aspen Law & Bus. 2012) will serve as the basis for the advanced legal writing seminar she will be teaching at MULS next fall. The book discusses why some briefs are more compelling than others and covers briefs written in some of the law’s most foundational cases: Muller v. Oregon (the Brandeis Brief), Brown v. Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona, Furman v. Georgia, Loving v. Virginia, and others. Professor Edwards says the course will build on what students learned in Legal Analysis, Writing & Research 2, but from a more advanced perspective.

Professor Edwards practiced law for 11 years before becoming the coordinator of NYU’s Lawyering Program. She then spent 19 years at Mercer University School of Law, where she was the director of legal writing and taught legal reasoning and advanced legal writing, as well as property, employment discrimination, and professional responsibility. In 2009, she joined the faculty at UNLV.  Also in 2009, Professor Edwards was awarded the Association of Legal Writing Directors and Legal Writing Institute’s Thomas Blackwell Award for her lifetime achievements and contributions to the legal writing field.

We are very excited to welcome Professor Edwards next fall.

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More Commonly Confused Words

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Nearly two weeks ago, I posted about some commonly confused words and how to choose the right one. Since then, I’ve had a few people ask about other commonly confused words, so I’ve compiled another list with suggestions for choosing the right word.

A/An/The – These three little words are called articles.  Some languages do not have articles, so when speakers of those languages learn to write in English, they also need to learn when to use each of these articles.  “A” and “an” are indefinite articles; that is, the noun that appears after them could refer to any ol’ thing, nothing definite. “The,” on the other hand, is a definite article. When a noun appears after “the,” the writer means for you to know that that noun is something specific.  For example, if I write, A court would hold the defendant liable, I’m saying any court, not a specific court, would hold the defendant liable. But if I write, The court would hold the defendant liable, I mean that a specific court would hold him liable, and which court that is would likely be clear from the context of the sentence in a larger document. As well, in both examples above, I’ve used the defendant, meaning a specific defendant about whom I am writing.

One other thing to note: “An” is used before nouns that begin with a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) or words that sound like they begin with a vowel, even if they don’t. An example would be: An honest person would return an item she found that didn’t belong to her. In that sentence, “honest” gets an “an” before it, even though it doesn’t begin with a vowel, but it sounds like it does. “Item” does begin with a vowel and gets an “an.” Conversely, some words that begin with vowels get “a” before them because they sound like they begin with consonants. E.g., There’s a one-hour delay for my flight.

Counsel/Council – In short, law students will become “counsel” when they become lawyers. This is because they will counsel their clients. They may also be called “Counselor.”  “Council” is a governing body of some sort, like a city council. A member of that governing body would be a councillor. Read more »

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Congratulations to the 2014 Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition Winners

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Congratulations to the winners of the 2014 Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition, Jennifer McNamee and Elizabeth Oestreich. Congratulations also go to finalists Amy Heart and Frank Remington, as well as Brian Kane and Amanda Luedtke, who won the Franz C. Eschweiler Prize for Best Brief.  Amy Heart won the Ramon A. Klitzke Prize for Best Oralist.

The competitors argued before a packed Appellate Courtroom. Presiding over the final round were Hon. Diurmuid O’Scannlain, Hon. Annette Ziegler, and Hon. Anne Burke.

Many thanks to the judges and competitors for their hard work, enthusiasm, and sportsmanship in all the rounds of competition, as well as to the moot court executive board and Law School administration and staff for their work in putting on the event. Special thanks to Dean Kearney for his support of the competition.

Students are selected to participate in the competition based on their success in the fall Appellate Writing and Advocacy class at the Law School.  Here is a link to the video of the competition.

 

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Congratulations to the 2014 Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition Finalists

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Congratulations to this year’s Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition finalists: Amy Heart, Jennifer McNamee, Elizabeth Oestreich, and Frank Remington. All the competitors presented strong oral arguments tonight.

Thank you to the judges of the semifinal round: Hon. Michael Bohren, Hon. G. Michael Halfenger, Hon. Donald Hassin, Hon. Nancy Joseph, Hon. Joan Kessler, Hon. JoAnne Kloppenburg.

The final round will be held on Wednesday, April 2 at 6:00 p.m. in the Appellate Courtroom. The teams will be matched as follows:

Team 2, Jennifer McNamee and Elizabeth Oestreich v. Team 8, Amy Heart and Frank Remington.

Best of luck to the finalists.

 

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Congratulations to the 2014 Jenkins Honors Moot Court Semifinalists

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Congratulations to this year’s Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition semifinalists: Tyler Coppage, Amy Heart, Brian Kane, Amanda Luedtke, Jennifer McNamee, Elizabeth Oestreich, Frank Remington, and Derek Waterstreet. Teams are advancing after four rounds of preliminary competition.

Thank you to the numerous judges who graded briefs and heard oral arguments, as well as to all the competitors, who prepared hard for the competition and fought good battles this weekend.

The semifinal round will be held on Thursday, March 27 at 6:00 p.m. The teams will be matched as follows:

Tyler Coppage and Derek Waterstreet v. Jennifer McNamee and Elizabeth Oestreich will argue in the Appellate Courtroom.

Brian Kane and Amanda Luedtke v. Amy Heart and Frank Remington will argue in the Trial Courtroom.

The teams will argue before a panel of judges, including Hon. Michael Bohren; Hon. G. Michael Halfenger; Hon. Donald Hassin; Hon. Nancy Joseph; Hon. Joan Kessler; and Hon. JoAnne Kloppenburg.

Good luck to the semifinalists.

 

 

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Commonly Confused Words: Knowing When to Choose the Right One

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Even as we add more official (and some might say questionable) words to our dictionaries—like selfie, twerk, sexting, and LOL—we sometimes seem to have a difficult time knowing when to use some of the basic words that have been around forever. Below are some commonly confused words, their meanings, and their proper use.

That/Which/Who – Probably the most commonly confused combination.  Misuse of “that” and “which” proliferate nearly every judicial opinion students read, which adds to the confusion.  Also, of late, I’ve noticed that students are dropping the use of “who” altogether and using “which” instead in places that make their writing grammatically incorrect.  So let’s take a look at each of these words. Read more »

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2014 Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition Preliminary Rounds

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Let the March Madness begin!

This weekend, the nine Jenkins Honors Moot Court Competition teams will compete in four preliminary rounds at Eckstein Hall. The rounds will be held on March 22nd at 10:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., and on March 23rd at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Law students are invited to attend any of the rounds and should plan to arrive to the round at least five minutes before the round begins.  Attending a round of competition is a great way for students to learn more about moot court and study oral advocacy techniques.  Students–come and cheer on your friends and classmates.

Thank you to Brittany Kachingwe, Associate Justice of Intramural Competitions, and the Moot Court Board for their work in organizing the competition.  Best of luck to this year’s competitors!

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Congratulations to the Marquette National Moot Court Team

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photo (2)Please congratulate third-year law students Hans Lodge, Brendon Reyes, and Robert Steele for their recent participation in the final rounds of the National Moot Court Competition (NMCC) in New York. The team was coached by Attorneys Emily Lonergan and Jason Luczak. The NMCC is hosted by the New York City Bar Association and the American College of Trial Lawyers.

I am grateful to the team for their tremendous hard work in all stages of preparation including brief writing and oral argument practice. I could not be more proud of them. Their coaches also put in countless hours of practice time with the team. This team is special for many reasons, but among them are that Brendon Reyes is our current Moot Court Association Chief Justice, and Emily Lonergan was our Chief Justice in the 2010-11 year. What a talented and dedicated group of students and young lawyers I am privileged to work with.

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To Split or Not to Split: That Is the Question

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HamletOne of my former students, Sean Samis, sent me this blog about split infinitives. The infinitive version of a verb is “to __” (to run, to speak, to write, etc.). To split the infinitive refers to placing an adverb between the “to” and the rest of the verb. The example often given is from Star Trek: “to boldly go . . .” Boldly is the adverb splitting the infinitive “to go.”

The article recounts a story about diplomatic negotiations between the U.S. and Great Britain that led to the Treaty of 1871. As the story goes, the British conceded certain points to the U.S. in the treaty, but would not allow the language of the treaty to contain any split infinitives. According to Yale Professor Thomas Lounsbury, as quoted in the blog, the British sent a telegraph that the treaty’s wording “’would under no circumstances endure the insertion of an adverb between the preposition to (the sign of the infinitive) and the verb.’” Professor Lounsbury was recalling the treaty in 1904.

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“The Government” as a Negative Label?

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labels-vAs we who teach legal analysis and writing teach students how to make the switch from objective to persuasive writing, we often talk about the little things that students can do to their briefs more persuasive.

One fairly obvious technique is for the writer to carefully choose how she wants to label the parties. Calling one party “the Defendant” rather than by his or her given name, for example, tends to de-personalize the defendant. Calling a business entity “the Company,” “the Firm,” or “the Corporation” may trigger for readers certain images or feelings, some of which may be negative. And that may be just what the writer wants if the writer represents a plaintiff alleging a wrong against an impersonal entity. Or, depending on context, maybe those designations are the quickest, easiest way to refer to one of the parties.

But who knew that “the Government” would be considered to a label to avoid—by the government itself? Read more »

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Logos, Ethos, and Pathos in Persuasive Writing

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aristotleIn the second semester of their first year, students make the switch from objective to persuasive writing. It’s a switch that some students welcome because they like the idea of arguing a position rather than having to be objective. As students learn, though, there’s more to persuasive writing—or at least more to good persuasive writing—than just arguing a position.

At their core, objective and persuasive legal writing share many of the same traits, such as maintaining the small scale organizational paradigm we refer to as CREAC (a/k/a IRAC). Because lawyers use that paradigm to advance their arguments, students need to master it, which makes the structure of the argument look similar to objective writing. But students need to make other, subtler changes in their writing (and thinking) to persuade effectively. It’s often challenging to succinctly explain these more subtle differences, but one easy way is to introduce the “why” behind the differences, which in turn helps explain those differences. Good persuasive writing argues a position by using a combination of three ancient rhetorical techniques: logos, ethos, and pathos. Read more »

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