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Help! My student’s cant rite. Professor Ann Ching, Pepperdine University School of Law Professor Jayne T. Woods, University of Missouri School of Law. The Problem. Photo Credit: Kyoto Hamada/The Atlantic. Typographical Errors. Typographical errors. “pubic policy”

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help my student s cant rite

Help! My student’s cant rite

Professor Ann Ching, Pepperdine University School of Law

Professor Jayne T. Woods, University of Missouri School of Law

the problem
The Problem

Photo Credit: Kyoto Hamada/The Atlantic

typographical errors1
Typographical errors
  • “pubic policy”
  • “A karate school that taught exclusively combat-oriented marital arts was not required to offer less combat-oriented instruction.” 
  • “On no account should the recipes be changed unless the customer specifically requests certain indigents be excluded.”
  • “The defendant committed a hate crime when he defecated a cross.”
  • “cat orgies”
word usage errors
Word usage errors

– Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride)

word usage errors1
Word usage errors
  • “seminole case”
  • “The heresy of the plaintiff should not have been admitted.”
  • “It is the burden of the Government to prove malice after thought.”
  • “The plaintiff was fired after he failed to purge himself on the witness stand after being asked to do so by his employer.”
  • “the indigenous client”
  • “The accident was the approximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.”
and the best modifier errors1
And (the best!) modifier errors
  • “Plaintiff’s breasts were groped while being verbally harassed.”
  • “The Pregnancy Discrimination Act forbids the discrimination against women who are pregnant by employers.”
  • “Mary and Michael had unprotected sex that lasted for six months.  Michael didn't get tested for HIV until after they had stopped having sex.”
  • “Sliced thin and piled high, the deli customers love the corned beef special.”
why do we care
Why do we care?
  • Precision in language is our job
  • Examples:
    • The million-dollar comma
    • The Motion to Correct Plaintiff’s Name (which was Conklin but consistently typed as “cock and” on all prior filings)
    • The debate over the meaning of the Second Amendment
    • The bench slap (referring attorneys to various legal writing texts . . . Maybe that’s not so bad!)
clicker slides
“Clicker” Slides

Photo Credit: Buffalo State University

please change your clicker to channel 41
Please change your clicker to channel 41

FIRST: Click on the Channel Button on your clicker. This is located in the bottom left-hand corner.

SECOND: Enter the channel number:

Press 4 then 1.

THIRD: Click on the Channel Button again.

First click here

First click here

which sentence is grammatically correct
Which sentence is grammatically correct?

Plural Modifier, so incorrect

  • The court issued their ruling.
  • The court issued its ruling.



Singular subject

Singular modifier

assuming joe is the plaintiff which sentence is grammatically correct
Assuming Joe is the plaintiff, which sentence is grammatically correct?
  • Plaintiff’s brief is ten pages long.
  • Plaintiffs brief is ten pages long.



Need the possessive.

pick the grammatically correct sentence
Pick the grammatically correct sentence.

This stands for “it is.” It is a contraction, not a possessive.

  • The sun moves in it’s own orbit.
  • The sun moves in its’ own orbit.
  • The sun moves in its own orbit.




Not a word.

which sentence best conveys the author s thought
Which sentence best conveys the author’s thought?
  • Among legal scholars, disagreements are common regarding almost every issue in the law.
  • The lack of uniformity of perceptibility is apparent to anyone who reads any number of treatises.
  • Legal scholars are almost never in complete unification on any issue in the law.

Word choice—“agreement” is better

Doesn’t pass the “huh?” test. Confusing words

advantages of clicker slides
Advantages of Clicker Slides

Photo Credit: Turning Technologies

the big reveal
The Big Reveal
  • Look at the top of your paper; there should be a letter.
  • How many people had A?
  • A is an untampered-with excerpt from Justice Scalia’s opinion in White v. Woodall, 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1704 (2014).
  • B has errors in fonts and justification
  • C has errors in spacing and punctuation
  • D has spelling errors