Pulling Out the Savoy Truffle

Reflections on music, literature, politics, and pop culture from retired rock musician, writer, and college professor Jim Booth. Email comments to Jim at jim@jimbooth.org.

Location: Advance, North Carolina, United States

Friday, March 05, 2004

Bad English

"It's only words/And words are all I have...."
Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb

See the following article from the New York Times.

(Many thanks to my buddy Sam from The Lullaby Pit for this item.)

I make my living with words.

I've written this novel and this novel, I'm at work on two more, and have yet another in notes and a few sketches....

I direct the writing program at a large state university. I do workshops (including one that starts Monday) to teach faculty members how to use writing in their classes both to help students learn more and learn how to write more effectively in their professions. I even advise faculty occasionally and offer them assistance with their writing.

I write this blog just so I can write with regularity and keep my own writing sharp.

Now in all this writing that I do and that I talk with others about doing, I emphasize one thing: revision. That means looking again at what one has written and making any revisions (additions, deletions, changes, or reorganization) and edits (grammar, spelling, punctuation, or format) to the text to make sure that what one has written communicates clearly and correctly what one means.

Now we all know about the law.

The law is complex and is based on precedent and deals in, far too often for the general welfare, the obtuse, the ambiguous, the purposely obfuscated.


But when the law seeks to move beyond these already enigmatic, problematic, phlegmatic areas into the illiterate, I think we've got to draw a line.

I think lawyers should have to pay fines for bad writing.

Why? Lawyers live by words, just as I do. But unlike me, the words lawyers create can cause all kinds of mischief if not properly policed.

My suggestion is that the Department of Justice begin looking at lawyers' bad writing. I think they'd be protecting us all more if they did so.


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