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Question of the week

POSTED MAR 11, 2015 03:15 PM CDT


Lawyers tend to care very deeply about language. Arguments frequently develop in our comments sections over punctuation, capitalization and grammar. ABA Journal columnist Bryan A. Garner once devoted an entire column to the word “shall.” And our own readers are not alone in their fervor.

The battles over what constitutes “proper” English are so fierce that the New Yorker magazine has created a new video series revolving around language usage. The Comma Queen, starring Mary Norris, launched on Tuesday with an episodededicated entirely to commas.

The ABA Journal staff bases the majority of our grammar, punctuation and language choices on the Associated Press Stylebook. An updated edition of this guide is published every year by the Associated Press news service, which is why you may see changes to our magazine’s language usage over time. (It was a big day for us when the AP decreed that websitecould be used instead of Web site. Many of us also remember the changeover from teen-ager to teenager.)

So this week, we’d like to ask: What are your go-to grammar guides? Is there a writer or grammarian whose advice you value above all others?

Answer in the comments.

Read the answers to last week’s question: Do you have a treasured keepsake in your office?

Featured answer:

Posted by Ken H : “I practice immigration law, and I also collect quite a bit of our family’s history. One of the most treasured keepsakes in my office is a framed copy of my great-grandfather’s application for U.S. citizenship, which he filed in 1911. In addition to having an original seal and being completed in his handwriting, the one-page application still has the perforation on the left edge of the paper where it was torn from the book in which it was printed. Contrary to the myriad of statements than an applicant needs to make nowadays, the only declarations he had to make were that he wasn’t an anarchist or a polygamist! On a side note, we also have papers (not in my office) stating that his application was denied–his parents naturalized when he was a minor, so he was already a U.S. citizen without knowing it.”


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