The University of Chicago Press,
Exercises from LEGAL WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH, Bryan A. Garner

§ 38. Prefer the singular over the plural.



Edit the following sentences to change the plural to singular when appropriate:

  • Employees who have earned more than 25 credits are eligible for positions under § 7.
  • The fire marshal is responsible for issuing all the permits listed in this section.
  • All the shareholders of the corporation have only one vote.
  • If the appealing parties have not satisfied the requisites for interlocutory appeals, their appeals will be dismissed.
  • When issues not raised by the pleadings are tried by the express or implied consent of the parties, they must be treated in all respects as if they had been raised by the pleadings.


In a state-court rulebook, find a rule that is undesirably worded in the plural. Photocopy the rule and edit it to fix the problem you've identified. If you're part of a writing group or class, bring a copy of your edited version for each colleague.


In the literature on legal drafting, find additional authority for the idea that a singular construction typically works better than a plural one.

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© 2001, Bryan A. Garner

These exercises appear in Bryan A. Garner's Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text with Exercises, published by The University of Chicago Press and available at bookstores and on the Web at