From ABA Basic Guide to Punctuation, Grammar, Workplace Productivity, and Time Management
- Write with the reader in mind; format with the reader in mind.
- Aim to create the appropriate overall impression in style, format, and content.
This basic review guide is directed to employees in law offices and related workplaces who review documentation for grammatical correctness, provide written information to the legal community, or create general correspondence while often faced with time constraints, deadlines, and stress. A document is a reflection on the employer, colleagues, and individual. Good grammar does matter. Good grammar is important. Good grammar eliminates ambiguity.
Effective, clear writing has a direct impact on a situation’s outcome. Incorrect comma placement, misplaced modifiers, incorrect words, and unclear writing may confuse the reader and impact the desired outcome. Writing something that you are comfortable with does not necessarily mean that the reader understands what you meant to say.
Note the difference that punctuation makes in the following sentences:
I left him convinced he was a fool. I left him, convinced he was a fool.
The clever dog knows its master. The clever dog knows it’s master.
We’d like you to see our attorneys work. We’d like you to see our attorney’s work.
Your document is something you may have to go back to a few years from now for possible case review, so you want it to be correct and clear when it is submitted. Do not let your documentation come back to haunt you later because of an error. Your work may be the first impression a court, attorney, or colleague has of your office, and it will set the tone for future interactions.
Sometimes it is prudent to remove some words from the spelling dictionary of your computer because it may automatically change words—heir to hair, for example. There are many stories of events that occurred when spell-check automatically changed the spelling of a word, causing embarrassment to the writer.
Because this book is a basic punctuation and grammar guide, it only provides rudimentary information. In some instances, it may appear to be too simplistic. However, there will be times when a basic punctuation question arises, and the answer will be found quickly and easily in this guide. For more in-depth explanation, consult other resources dedicated to punctuation and grammar.