Friday, October 21, 2005

Proofreading Harriet Miers

Much has been said about Harriet Miers' great attention to detail, to the point of extensively proofreading (an egregious sin, to be sure). Take this from the Washington Post:
"As Bush's staff secretary, she was known to correct spelling, grammar and even punctuation errors in memos to the president. But she has no judicial experience and not much appellate experience."
And then this rundown from Slate:
But wait -- the president already put a stickler for spelling, grammar, and punctuation on the bench: John Roberts. At Hogan & Hartson, Roberts stuck clients with enormous bills by asking associates to rewrite briefs over and over until they were free of typographical and grammatical errors. In the Reagan administration, his snide memos mocked others' grammar. During his confirmation, he made sure journalists reported that as a youth, he never lost a local spelling bee.

In almost every respect, Miers would seem to be no John Roberts. But when it comes to spelling, grammar, and punctuation, Roberts may have met his match.

But now that bloggers are getting a look atsomem of the papers Miers has written, they may be ready to take it all back.

The Volokh Conspiracy points out some bad writing -- and especially poor use of commas -- in Miers' questionnaire (emphasis added by the VC):

My experience on the City Council helps me understand the interplay between serving on a policy making board and serving as a judge. An example, of this distinction can be seen in a vote of the council to ban flag burning. The Council was free to state its policy position, we were against flag burning. The Supreme Court'?s role was to determine whether our Constitution allows such a ban. The City Council was anxious to encourage minority and women-owned businesses, but our processes had to conform to equal protection requirements, as well.

My City Council service and working in economic development activities afforded me with special insight into the importance of a stable, respected, and fair judiciary in which the public can have confidence.

Looks as if Miers is no Roberts in this arena, either.

Some pundits are even joking that it might be the misspellings helping sink her nomination. The National Review has another example here. (And when a reader wrote in to say that was piling on, that this should be about "substance, not style," Jonathan Adler responded with this: "Of course typos are of minimal relevance to whether Miers should be confirmed. However, I do think they are further evidence that the White House, if not the nominee, is falling down on the job with this nomination. After all, the White House tried to sell Miers as "detail oriented" -- to the point of noting how thoroughly she would proofread others' work -- and one would have expected the questionnaire to be thoroughly proofread before it was submitted.")

As one VC commenter responded: "What is the aptitude for strict construction, if there is no aptitude for construction."


At 5:58 PM, October 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd love to see a quick side by side comparison of Roberts' vs. Miers' writings, something indicative of their writing talents. Because they really were described similary in that realm in the beginning.

At 9:46 PM, October 22, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In corporate settings, as opposed to newsroom settings, it's not unusual to deal with folks who are sticklers for the way things are worded and punctuated -- but who at the same time are neither good writers nor grammarians. It can be more of a power thing than an accuracy thing.

At 10:34 PM, October 22, 2005, Blogger Nicole said...

Well, that's not exactly a rousing endorsement, either.


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