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

§ 7. Keep the subject, the verb, and the object together--toward the beginning of the sentence.



Edit the following sentences to cure the separation of related words:

  • Ms. Lenderfield, during the course of her struggle to provide for her children as a single parent, accrued considerable debt to her family and others.
  • Chesapeake's assertion that it is not a proper defendant in this case and, therefore, that relief cannot be granted is incorrect.
  • The court, in finding that Officer McGee was acting more as a school employee than as a police officer in searching Robinson, ruled that an official's primary role is not law enforcement.


Edit the following sentences to cure the separation of related words:

  • Plaintiff's testimony that he had never had a back injury and had never been treated by a doctor for a back ailment before this workplace accident is suspect.
  • The Trustee, at any time, by an instrument in writing executed by the Trustee, with the concurrence of the City Council evidenced by a resolution, may accept the resignation of or remove any cotrustee or separate trustee appointed under this section.
  • In Barber v. SMH (US), Inc., the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the plaintiff's reliance on a statement made by the defendant that "as long as he was profitable and doing the job for the defendant, he would be defendant's exclusive representative" as establishing an oral contract for just-cause employment was misplaced.
  • Taxes imposed by any governmental authority, such as sales, use, excise, gross-receipts, or other taxes relating to the equipment, except for the personal-property tax, for which Biltex, Inc. is assessed and liable by applicable law, must be reimbursed by Calburn, Inc.


Find a published legal example of either subject-verb separation or verb-object separation. (The worse the separation, the better your example.) Retype the sentence, with the citation, and then type your own corrected version below it. If you're a member of a writing group or class, bring a copy of your page for each colleague, and be prepared to discuss your work.

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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