Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The power of the language

A San Francisco judge gave lawyers a lesson in punctuation Tuesday when he refused to accept their court order because of a misplaced semicolon.
The judge told the plaintiffs that they would likely succeed on the merits eventually, but that for now, he couldn't accept their proposed court order because of a punctuation error.

It all came down to a semicolon, the judge said.

"I am not trying to be petty here, but it is a big deal ... That semicolon is a big deal," Warren said.
The order asked the city to "cease and desist issuing marriage licenses to and/or solemnizing marriages of same-sex couples; to show cause before this court."

The judge wants "or" instead of the semicolon. Maybe more discerning judges could put a stop to some of the terrible legalese spit out by courts every year. Then again, there's more wrong with the language of the order than a simple "or" could fix.

Related: Rules Grammar Change -- English Traditional Replaced To Be New Syntax With


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