Possessives with Personal Titles

A friend recently forwarded me a question about the first sentence in a brief for a state Court of Appeals that they wanted to make sure was correct.  The sentence was (which I have changed to protect her client):

  • In 2006 Mr. Smith did not dispute the facts set forth in Jim Jones’, Esq. opinion letter which established the sale of the business was XXX.

There is nothing specifically on point in the Gregg Reference Manual, but I did find a couple of places on the Internet where the question was answered with the example of “M.D.” In that case, for singular possession, you add “s” after the apostrophe, i.e., Jim Jones, M.D.’s diagnosis. The most prevalent use of what would be “Jim Jones, Esq.’s” is on LinkedIn–certainly not an expert in the grammar area–but makes the most sense and follows the example for M.D. I think the proper sentence would be:

  • In 2006 Mr. Smith did not dispute the facts set forth in Jim Jones, Esq.’s opinion letter which established the seller of the business was XXX.

The easiest answer is to reword the sentence:

  • In 2006 Mr. Smith did not dispute the facts set forth in attorney Jim Jones’ opinion letter which established the seller of the business was XXX.


  • In 2006 Mr. Smith did not dispute the facts set forth in the opinion letter of Jim Jones, Esq. which established the seller of the business was XXX.

It was a great question and something that at first blush seems simple, but when you really think about it, it wasn’t quite so easy.

“The Paralegal Voice” Podcast!

I was recently invited to be a guest on The Paralegal Voice podcast on the Legal Talk Network.  Here is the promotional information about that interview and a link to the actual podcast:

Paralegal Proofreading Tips Podcast 

Kathy Albrecht Sieckman, PP, PLS, ACP was invited to be a guest on The Paralegal Voice. Hosted by Paralegal Mentor Vicki Voisin, the Legal Talk Network program discusses industry-relevant topics with leading professionals to cultivate paralegal-career development and success. Kathy was invited to discuss accurate proofreading catered specifically to paralegals and legal support staff.

Listen here: Paralegal Proofreading Tips

“I know proofreading is important to you,” Voisin said, “and I’d like to know what event lead to your becoming an expert on proofreading for legal professionals.” Studying for Sieckman’s certification exam, she became attuned to the plethora of grammatical errors that can vitiate legal documents. “Now I notice things in newspapers, billboards, and the local news,” Sieckman said, “I’m actually surprised how much local news has errors.” She has a Grammar Giggles section in her blog where she posts blatant errors, such as a “Parent Dorp Off” sign outside of an elementary school.

“Proofreading is difficult. Sometimes people expect things to be right,” Voisin said, which can cause them to graze over errors. So tell us why proofreading is so important in your daily life and as a paralegal, she asked. “Attorneys have read their work so many times, they know what it’s supposed to say,” Sieckman explained, “which isn’t necessarily what shows up on paper.” Again, this is another reason authors tend to graze over errors and the reality is, “judges really don’t have time to read error-filled documents,” Sieckman said. Additionally, no paralegal wants to be responsible for a document permeated with typos. “No, you don’t want your document, or motion, to be thrown out by the judge,” Voisin agreed.

So what issues do you frequently see? she asked, and how do you eradicate them? “Everything has to be accurate,” Sieckman began, “or it can completely change your case . . .”

Tune in to Paralegal Proofreading Tips to hear Voisin and Sieckman cover common errors and solutions to proofreading for paralegals.


Grammar Giggles – The Party Did What?

As some of you know, last week I started a new job that has really sucked the extra energy out of me. With apologies for not posting at all last week, I’m hoping some of you missed your “Proof It” fix and promise that I will make a concerted effort to research and post the blog post on Wednesday and to post two Grammar Giggles–one today and one on Friday. Thanks for your support! On to your Monday Grammar Giggle.

This was sent to me by a friend who received it from opposing counsel. It makes me wonder what this even means. It is incorrectly plural and incorrectly possessive. I can’t help but be embarrassed for this firm that this work product came out of their office–and I don’t even know which firm it is.


Proof That!

Those who know me know that although I’m no grammar genius, I do have a near obsession with proofreading and grammar issues.  I can’t drive down the street or read anything for pleasure without cringing at errors.  I even got my county to change a street sign in my neighborhood that was misspelled and was driving me crazy every day.  I don’t know or understand all of the grammar rules (don’t ask me what a gerund is), I’m not a “wanna be” English teacher (I couldn’t diagram a sentence to save my life), I don’t fancy myself a grammar expert by any stretch of the imagination, I’m just a legal secretary obsessed with quality product leaving my desk.  Hopefully the tips in this blog will help others improve their own work product and I encourage you to participate and ask questions about any proofreading issues you have.

My “turn to” resources are the Gregg Reference Manual and all things Grammar Girl (http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/).  I understand there are many other grammar resources out there, but these are MY resources and they are what I will use here.

Now that we have that out of the way — Welcome to my first blog post!  The most important thing to remember in proofreading is consistency.  Nearly every grammar “rule” has an “exception.”  If your boss wants to do things a certain way that might be against the “rule” but fits within the “exception,” do what he or she wants — just be consistent.  If you’re using serial commas (which I highly recommend and will discuss another time) or you’re initial capping defined terms, do it throughout the document.  Choose your specific style and stick with it.  When you care about grammar, it is hard to read a document that has errors, particularly where things are done differently throughout the document.  We all hope, of course, that all judges and their clerks care about grammar and we don’t want to distract them from the content of the message because of sloppy delivery.  The first time someone reaches for a red pen in their mind, you’ve lost part of your message.

It is much easier to maintain consistency if you can sit uninterrupted and read the entire document at one time.  Otherwise, you end up reading part of the document, then turning to something else, then turning back to your original document, all of which will make it more difficult to be consistent.  That said, I would love to be uninterrupted long enough to read three consecutive pages at a time.  It just doesn’t happen.  Sometimes I will make notes about specific things that I want to make sure are consistent.  This is particularly important when you have a document that more than one person has worked on or you have several related documents you are filing together.  Find what works for you so that the document is consistent.  Consistency is what is most important!

Let me know what you might have issues with in your documents.  I have a list of my own Top 10 and other topics I come across in my daily proofreading that I’ll work through on this blog, but I would love to hear questions you have.  Email me at proofthatblog@gmail.com with questions or examples of grammar horrors that I can use in the future.  Thanks for supporting my effort to make proofreading an essential part of every document leaving your office!  I hope to see you next time.