Dates seem to be confusing for some people. When you use a complete date (month, day, and year), you should use a comma before AND after the year.
- On November 11, 2013, the Veterans’ Day parade will start at 10 a.m., but I will be at work.
- Please send me your time entries for November 1 to December 31, 2012, so I can prepare the fee application.
Of course, there are exceptions. For instance, if other punctuation is necessary after the year, you would omit the comma immediately after the year.
- On November 11, 2013 (the federal Veterans’ Day holiday), I will miss the parade because I am working.
Also, if the date is in the day, month, year style (13 November 2013), there are no commas unless the sentence requires a comma for another reason.
Where a comma after the year might lead to some confusion, use a semicolon.
- Our office will be closed on November 27, 28, and 29, 2013; December 23, 24, and 25, 2013; and January 1, 2, and 3, 2014.
Note that my office will NOT be closed on all of those days. Unfortunately, it is for illustrative purposes only and I will be hard at work on most of those days.
Where you are using just the month and year, there are no commas unless the sentence needs it for another reason.
- The September 2013 totals show a rise in sales.
- We spent most of September 2013, the wettest September on record, trying to keep the water from coming into the house. [Here the commas set off a descriptive expression.]
Don’t be afraid of commas with dates, just learn to use them correctly.
Found this one on Twitter and, yes, she has demanded a replacement. When the name is very obviously a woman (“Mrs. Suzanne”), using “his wife” and “his” is inexcusable. This is the danger of using templates and not checking them every single time.
One of the important pieces of proofreading is making sure your document looks good (in addition to being accurate). Here are some tips for aesthetically pleasing documents:
- Avoid widow and orphan lines. Those are the single lines or words at the top of a page (widow) or at the bottom of the page (orphans). Use the Word para widow orphan control feature to keep the widows and orphans away.
- Check to see if the entire document is justified or not justified. Particularly where there is a lot of cutting and pasting or different people working on the document, you may see that some paragraphs are justified while others are not. Consistency is what matters. Decide which to use and make sure all the paragraphs are that style
- Is the spacing even? Some paragraphs could be double, some could be 24 space, some could be 1.5 lines. To some people, that would all look “close enough,” but to someone checking how a document looks, you will notice that (and judges and opposing counsel may well notice it too).
- Are the margins even on every page? Make sure the margins match paragraph to paragraph and page to page. Something I see a lot is where someone pulls the right hand margin in for a quotation and it doesn’t get changed back to the original margin.
- Do the headings line up at the same tab stop consistently throughout the document and are they numbered consecutively? This is an important step in the process. Sometimes one last run through just to check paragraph numbers is worth it. It is much better than opposing counsel saying in a motion that they object to Paragraph, well we don’t know what it is because there are two Paragraphs numbered 3 and no number 5. It is best to set up styles and number that way, but no matter which way you go, at least check it.
- If you, the author, or the client insists that a document line up with pleading paper line numbers, try to get it there. It takes time and can be highly frustrating, but you can get close. And it really does look much nicer to have it all aligned with the numbers (and it is easier to refer back in a subsequent document to a page and line number if necessary).
Following these steps will help you have a document that looks like someone cared enough to make it look right–because YOU cared.
I always am particularly disheartened when schools make simple grammatical errors. Perhaps it is just that I have a higher standard for educational institutions. Here is an example of why. If I had received this diploma after four years of hard work, I would not be happy. Of all the things that should be spelled correctly, the state you are in should be at the top.
This was all over Facebook and since this is the clock “falling back” weekend for most of the US, I thought it was appropriate–well, appropriate for a lesson. Since I’m an Arizona native and Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Saving Time, perhaps moving chickens is another part of the ritual. However, I honestly think this is a perfect example of what a difference one letter can make.
Remember how your fourth grade teacher taught you to use a before a consonant and an before a vowel? Times have changed and that method—by itself—is no longer a valid way to decide whether to use a or an. Today’s grammar rules indicate that use of a or an depends on the sound of the next letter, not just whether it is a consonant or a vowel. For instance, the word hour starts with a consonant but sounds like it begins with the vowel “o” sound, so it would be an hour. There are a couple of letters that can be tricky. First, where there is a long u sound (as in “union”) and o with the sound of w (as in one), you use a. Just think of the long u sound as “yoo” (starting with a consonant sound) and the w sound in “one” as a “w” (consonant sound). Just remember it is the sound of the letter that tells you which to use.
One word that is confusing is historic. The way you pronounce it determines whether it is a or an. Following our rule, it should be “a historic.”
The same rule will apply when you are dealing with abbreviations and acronyms. It will depend on whether you pronounce it letter by letter or as a word. For example, a PPO insurance plan. The acronym PPO is pronounced letter by letter and the first letter—P—is pronounced as a consonant. Another example would be an M.B.A. degree. The abbreviation M.B.A. starts with “M” which sounds like em, so use an.
When you stop long enough to sound the questionable word out in your head, the decision is pretty easy. Just stop, pronounce, and listen. You will get it if you take the time to hear it.
A friend sent this Giggle to me. While “are” and “our” are sometimes confusing, this is really basic 4th grade (or lower!) English stuff.
Pulled this one from Twitter. Your and you’re are confusing to people. Just remember that if the sentence should read “If you see this, you are in second,” then use you’re–which is the contraction of you and are. If the sentence should be “If you see this, your second base is showing,” it means that second base belongs to you. Pretty simple if you think about it for a minute or two–so please do!
It seems that in the legal field, it is hard to break old habits–especially in the use of antiquated phrases. One of my least favorite is “enclosed please find.” If you are enclosing something, you only need to say “enclosed is” or “enclosed are” (if you are enclosing more than one thing). That says all that you need to say. You don’t need to fill up a piece of paper or an email with words for the sake of thinking you sound more intelligent when getting the point across and saving your reader time will serve the same purpose. Here are more phrases that you should stop using:
- Above-referenced. If your communication has a “re:” line, and later in the letter you say “In the above-referenced case,” the reader has a tendency to have their eyes drift back up to the re: line and then back down to re-find their place. Instead use the re: line, but if you refer to it again, say “In the Smith v. Jones case” so your reader doesn’t get interrupted from your message.
- Under separate cover. If you are sending something else separately, say “I am sending you separately (or by FedEx, etc.)
- Please note that. This phrase is unnecessary. You don’t need to ask them to note something, just tell them and they are smart enough to at least mentally make note of it.
- I am forwarding. Saying “I am sending” says the same thing without being so formal.
- Please do not hesitate to contact me. What you’re asking them to do is to call or email you, so say “Please call me” or “Please contact me” (giving them the option for the most convenient method for them) instead.
- At your earliest convenience. Give a specific date or just leave this phrase out.
- With regard to. Use “regarding” instead.
- In the event that. It is so much simpler to say “if.”
- Pursuant to your request. “As requested” says the same thing.
- The undersigned. You are talking about yourself, so just say “I.”
Speak in correspondence (letters and emails) more like you would speak on the telephone and much less formally. Your clients and coworkers already know you are intelligent. Speaking in such a formal way doesn’t make you any more intelligent.
Ease up and be less formal so your reader doesn’t have to wade through a bunch of stuff that is unnecessary to get to your message. Make it easy for them (and you) by using less formal language in your communications.
This one comes from Twitter and is from last summer. Again, spell check wouldn’t catch this one. That’s what human eyes and human brains are for! Happy Friday!