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Use the Active Voice;

Put Pronouns in Their Proper Case;


Make the Verb Agree in Number with Its
Subject

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REQUIRED READING
Tabucanons Legal Writing
Chapter XIII Grammar and
Usage
Chapter VI The Active Voice

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Grammar
1. rules for language: the system of rules

by which words are formed and put together


to make sentences
2. particular set of language rules: the
rules for speaking or writing a particular
language, or an analysis of the rules of a
particular aspect of language
(Microsoft Encarta 2009. 19932008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights
reserved.)
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Grammar
3. quality of language: the spoken or written

form of language that somebody uses with


regard to accepted standards of correctness
bad grammar
4. grammar book: a book dealing with the
grammar of a language
5. analytic system: a systematic treatment
of the elementary principles of a subject and
their interrelationships
Microsoft Encarta 2009. 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Syntax
1. organization of words in sentences:

the ordering of and relationship between


the words and other structural elements in
phrases and sentences. The syntax may be
of a whole language, a single phrase or
sentence, or of an individual speaker.
2. branch of grammar: the branch of
grammar that studies syntax
Microsoft Encarta 2009. 1993-2008 Microsoft
Corporation. All rights reserved.
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Syntax
3. rules of syntax: an exposition of or set of

rules for producing grammatical structures


according to the syntax of a language
4. rules governing program structure:
the rules governing which statements and
combinations of statements in a programming
language will be acceptable to a compiler for
that language
Microsoft Encarta 2009. 1993-2008 Microsoft
Corporation. All rights reserved.
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Syntax
5. rules for deriving logical formulas:

the part of logic that gives the rules that


define which combinations of expressions in
the logical system yield well-formed
formulas
6. rule-based arrangement: the
arrangement of any group of elements in a
systematic or rule-based
mannerMicrosoft
Encarta 2009. 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
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1. Use the Active


Voice
Active

The court reversed the


judgment.
Passive
The judgment was reversed
by the court.
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ACTIVE VOICE
sentence pattern: a person or

thing performing an action.


As you read the following
sentences, think about who or
what is performing the action,
what the action is, and when the
action occurs (present, past, or
future).
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PERFORME
R

The law
student
completed the
difficult exam.

ACTION

student compl
eted

TIME

past

Mrs. Smith
sings in the
church choir
each Sunday.

Mrs.
Smith

sings presen
t

The plane
raced across
the sky.

plane

raced

past

They will speak

They

Will

future10

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Passive voice is inherent in legal


language, but it is also overused
in all types of legal documents.
Legal drafters are encouraged to
modify the texts by transforming
passive voice into active, because
the passive is justified only when
the doer of the action is unknown
or intentionally left out.
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Passively phrased sentences

are often more abstract,


since the actor is not
mentioned
1. The judgment was
reversed.
2. Notice shall be given.
3. A mistake was made.
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Use the pattern subject-verb-

object not the inverted sequence,


unless the inversion is much better.
Rewrite :

The motion to dismiss should


have been furnished by the
defendant to the plaintiff.

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2. Put Pronouns in their


proper case and number
Jerry had dinner with Charles and me.
There were differences between him

and me.
The tortfeasor, the court found, was he.
We judges are to decide real cases, not
hypothetical ones.
Assign this case to whoever needs
more work.
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Rewrite :

We need to confer with


whomever worked on
this project and then
have he or she draft a
motion for summary
judgment.
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Rewrite :

Finally, the fault is set aside to


lie in part with we eccentric
professors.
All press inquiries should be
directed to Diane and myself.
My lawyer and myself are
delighted to have won the case.
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Either, everybody, anybody, neither,

nobody, someone antecedents (a word


or phrase that a subsequent word refers
to)calling for he
E.g. 1. Everybody thinks he could give a
rousing jury argument.
E.g. 2. Neither a corporate lawyer nor a
litigator should overlook the importance
of properly maintaining his files.
E.g. 3. Nobody would argue that his
demeanor does not affect the judges
attitude toward him.
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3. Make the Verb agree in


number with its subject keep
your eye on the subject
Rule : Plural subjects take plural verbs,
singular subjects take singular verb
Rewrite 1: This problem is also
declining in importance as the
language of statutes are modernized.
Rewrite 2: At first, the difference
between Bernas and Cruz or
between Bernas and any other
constitutionalists is a bit startling.
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3. Make the Verb agree in


number with its subject keep
your eye on the subject

Rewrite 3 - The appellate

judges immediate
audience are his
colleagues who sat with
him when an appeal was
argued.
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4. Anchor modifiers to what


they modify
Rewrite 1: Gnawing on its
bone, the man scolded the
dog.
Rewrite 2: Watching the
river, the manikin was
spotted floating near the
bank.
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4. Anchor modifiers to what


they modify
Rewrite 3: Finding no error,

the judgment of the trial


court is affirmed.
Rewrite 4: Applying those
principles to the facts of this
case, it is clear that the
plaintiffs cannot recover.
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5. Split infinitives (a form of a verb


with no reference to a specific
tense, person, or subject) warily, if
An infinitive is split when one
at all

places one or more words


between TO and the VERB
E.g. to (summarily) reverse;
to (unwisely) modify

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5. Split infinitives (a form of a verb


with no reference to a specific
tense,
person,
or
subject)
warily,
if
Rewrite : It is not necessary
at all

to here enlarge upon this


point.
Rewrite : He hopes to more
than double his profits in the
next three quarters.

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6. Break some rules to


catch attention
Dont be afraid to begin the

occasional sentence with AND


or BUT.
End sentences with
prepositions when you need to
Use Conditional Sentences
Instead of PROVISOS
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CONCLUSION
The obscurity of legal English
has grown out of legal
tradition as a by-product of
traditionally entrenched
concepts.
Legal writing in plain English is
promoted and subject to
modern day reforms.
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