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

§ 48. Learn how to find reliable answers to questions of grammar and usage.



Correct the usage errors in the following sentences. Cite a usage book that deals with the error in each sentence.

  • When Margot arrived, Rodney told her that David had laid down because of his pain.
  • Mrs. Clements testified that Kenneth was waiving the gun wildly and pointing it at Bill.
  • Counsel testified that because the testimony would have harmed her case, she opted to forego it for reasons of trial strategy.
  • Since the Oneida line of cases are now binding federal law in California, this Court is bound to follow them.
  • The cost of any arbitration proceedings will be born by the party designated by the arbitrators.
  • The gas would likely be inventory under the Idaho statutes defining the term, but these provisions might not apply since they do not effect Idaho taxable income.
  • Texas law prohibits the unjustified interference with a parties' existing or prospective contractual relations.
  • For the reasons stated in Jones's initial motion, Jones maintains that the Court's August 27 order precludes Fillmore from preceding on count six in this action.
  • The laws of the State of Massachusetts (irrespective of its choice-of-law principals) govern the validity of this Agreement, the construction of its terms, and the interpretation and enforcement of the parties' rights and duties.
  • Neither Mr. Robinson's affidavit nor Plaintiffs' deposition testimony carry the force of law.


Take two of the usage guides recommended here and find two others not mentioned. Be prepared to report on each guide's answers to the following questions:

  1. Is it ever permissible to split an infinitive? If so, when?
  2. Where should an adverb go in relation to a verb phrase? That is, not an infinitive, but a verb phrase.
  3. Is it grammatically correct to begin a sentence with And?
  4. Which is correct: self-deprecating or self-depreciating?
  5. What is elegant variation? Is it good or bad?
  6. What is a fused participle? Is it ever acceptable to use one?
  7. What is the difference between historic and historical?
  8. What is the difference between farther and further?


Prepare a bibliography of ten usage guides, including at least three of the ones listed in this section. Write a one-paragraph comment on each book's strengths and weaknesses.

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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