THE CAREFUL COMMUNICATOR #1
This posting is the first step in a leisurely stroll through skillful English usage. Over the years I have collected an odd assortment of grammatical misadventures, English language faux pas, verbal slips and communication oddities. I share them in the hope that they may prove both edifying and entertaining. I begin with my favorite.
BETWEEN YOU AND I”
– To the trained ear, this construction is roughly equivalent to fingernails being dragged across a blackboard. One can only assume that, as children, those who speak thus must have been chastised for saying, “You and me went to town.” Having been so chastised, they became gun shy of “me” when used in conjunction with “you and.” They have become guilty of over refinement. Between is a preposition, and the pronouns that follow it should be in the objective case. “I” is the subjective case, i.e., it is the subject of a sentence or clause. “I threw the ball.” “You” can be either subjective or objective. “You went to town.” “He hit the ball to you.” “Me” is the objective case and is always used as the object of prepositions, e.g., “to me;” “for me;” with me;” “toward me;” and “after me.” The correct construction with “between” is “between you and me
.” For those who have not already been irreparably damaged by excessive exposure to TV sportscasters and sitcoms, I offer the following litmus test for all prepositional phrases other than “between.” Try the sentence without “you and” after the preposition and see how it sounds. The correct form becomes starkly obvious. We would never say, “He threw the ball to you and
I.” Or, “ She came to town with you and
I.” The preposition “between” is slightly more difficult because by definition it denotes more than one person. Without the “you and” we can’t use “me” but have to use a plural, which is “us.” “Us,’ just like “me” is in the objective case. Enjoy.
THE CAREFUL COMMUNICATOR #2
– Despite their quite different meanings, these words are often confused. Each can serve as a verb. Each can serve as a noun. As a verb, affect
means to influence, or have an effect on. The failing economy adversely affects many people.
As a verb, effect
means to bring about a result, to accomplish, to execute. The prescribed medicine effected a cure in the patient.
As a noun, affect
has a narrow psychological meaning, i.e., an expressed or observed emotional response or state. The psychologist noticed that after the patient’s session, there was a marked change in his affect.
As a noun, effect
is the result or consequence of a producing agency or cause. Try this mnemonic device: “The psychiatrist was deeply affected
by the patient’s mental disorder and set about to effect
a cure. The medication he prescribed had the desired effect
and dramatically altered the patient’s affect
THE CAREFUL COMMUNICATOR #3
-- Despite journalistic usage, jurist
is not synonymous with judge
. A jurist
is merely one versed in the law. Therefore, although a judge
is, or should be a jurist,
is not necessarily a judge
THE CAREFUL COMMUNICATOR #4
is a person legally appointed or retained to transact business for another, usually in a specific matter or matters. Bill Jones was designated to act as Ms. Smith's attorney
for signing real estate closing documents. (The paper imbuing the attorney with authority to transact business for another is a power of attorney
.) A lawyer
is a person trained in the law and whose profession is to provide legal advice and assistance to clients. Jack Wilson was the lawyer
hired to represent Ms. Adams in her lawsuit. Attorneys
are not necessarily lawyers
, although they may be, i.e., a lawye
r serving in the stead of another in matters of law. Strictly speaking, a lawyer
is an attorney
when he has a client.
is technically proper only when the context denotes or implies the existence of a client. Sam Spade was attorney
for Jane Doe -- not
Same Spade is a prominent attorney
in Orlando. The appellation attorney at law
is either an expression of optimism by a lawyer
or an announcement that she has procured gainful employment. Enjoy.
THE CAREFUL COMMUNICATOR #5
- This is a redundancy, e.g., "The Fifth District Court of Appeal remanded
the case back
to the trial court." Remand
means to send back. Omit the back.
THE CAREFUL COMMUNICATOR #6
In a recent e-mail Richard Lord implied
that much confusion exists regarding the use of imply
From his message I inferred
that this would be a good subject for The Careful Communicator. Imply
means to say indirectly or suggest. Infer
means to deduce or conclude from the evidence or situation. The most common mistake is to use infer
is meant. "On the witness stand the witness said that he had not meant by his testimony to infer
that the car had been speeding." Sometimes, due to an ambiguous context, it is impossible to tell whether infer
is being used correctly or incorrectly. "Just because I entered his house illegally, are you inferring
that I 'm a burglar?" HELPFUL HINT: The implier
is always the pitcher. The inferrer
is always the catcher.
Howard R. Marsee