Monday, September 11, 2006

A Dean's mistakes

In a recent essay in the Texas Bar Journal, Baylor Law School's Dean, Brad Toben, committed a writing error twice. Can you spot it? (The first text is a sentence fragment that appeared as a heading, so that's not the error, and that's why there's no period.)
  1. Burka's concern that the law's animation by larger societal and policy ends are largely ignored

  2. However, apart from the benefit of clinics and field placements providing real client experiences, another approach -- well-conceived simulations -- offer advantages that collectively can surpass clinics and field placements.
The problem is that a verb does not agree in number with its subject:
  1. law's animation . . . is [not are]

  2. another approach . . . offers [not offer]
How do writers make mistakes like this? One way is by separating the subject from its verb with intervening words. In number 1, six words intervene between subject and verb; in number 2, three words intervene.

Generally, keep the verb close to its subject. But on the many occasions when words legitimately intervene, be sure the verb agrees with its subject.

Better Legal Writing
Writing for the Legal Audience

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