Category Archives: punctuation

Leave a Paper Trail Whenever Possible As Part of a Clear Writing Discipline

As mentioned in previous blogs, many years ago I was involved in the case when singer/actress/entertainer Doris Day won a huge monetary award against her former lawyer Jerry Rosenthal. The trial judge found Rosenthal’s representation of Day to have many faults. He also found Rosenthal’s testimony at trial to be non-believable. The judge’s decision was affirmed on appeal.

Despite these shortcomings, I found Rosenthal to have excellent writing skills. One of them was the regimen he followed to keep track of his writings, i.e., creation of a paper trail. His use (some would say “over use”) of this practice is described in more detail in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on books and in print. For ease of reference I have repeated here what I wrote in my book on this subject.

“In affirming the trial court’s decision, the appellate court tagged Rosenthal as a “notorious note-keeper,” not without considerable justification. (For clarification, it should be noted that I was not involved in the appeal). To this appellation, I would add the adjective “meticulous.” That Rosenthal had a propensity for writing memos and letters was clear from the huge paper trail he left in the case. The record was littered with his writings, often in his own handwriting. He wrote a memo to memorialize, well, everything, and letters to do the same. And every memo was inscribed with, not only his initials, but the date and the time it was created.

The trial judge in his final decision referred to the “patina” of paper created by Rosenthal, which surrounded the case. In other words, her thought that all of Rosenthal’s memos and letters were a cover up to disguise his wrongdoing, to give some semblance of authenticity to his conduct…

As part of this practice, Rosenthal made a dairy entry on May 11, 1956 to memorialize a conversation he had with Doris Day on that date explaining the May 11, 1956 retainer agreements he reached with her and Marty Melcher. In these agreements, Rosenthal was given a ten percent interest in the Melchers’ earnings and investments. Later in 1963, he and Melcher agreed to build a financial empire together using Day’s money as capital, together with Melcher’s business experience and Rosenthal’s legal experience as contributing factors. Pursuant to this “Empire Agreement,” Rosenthal was to withdraw from the practice of law so as to devote all of his time to building the empire and was to be paid a salary of $100,000 per year plus expenses. He would be a fifty percent partner with the Melchers.

The judge did not believe that Rosenthal could explain the May 11, 1956 agreements to Day in 25 minutes, as he testified, and so disbelieved his testimony about everything, including the 1956 fee agreements and the later Empire Agreement, despite finding certain “chicken tracks of irrefutable facts” surrounding the latter. The judge consequently disbelieved Rosenthal’s entire seventeen days of testimony in the case. This ruling was based on the “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” (false as to one thing, false as to everything) doctrine. An interesting doctrine which could have application outside the field of law, e.g., politics, it formed a major basis for the court’s findings against Rosenthal, including the finding that his services to the Melchers over approximately twenty years of time were absolutely worthless.

But, notwithstanding this ruling against Rosenthal, the point to be made is that your writing skills should be applied to pursue the very same “note keeping” practices used by him. Becoming immersed in the vast ocean of records in the case could not help but leave a definite impression on me. It provided the impetus for me to upgrade my own record keeping habits. I increased my efforts to memorialize all telephone conversations by note or memo, and to follow up telephone and other conversations by letter and, later, by email, where appropriate.

Agreements, formal or informal, deadlines, things to do, errands, etc., all deserve to be put in writing. It’s good personal and business practice to leave a paper trail whenever possible, not only as a reminder of deadlines, but so as to avoid any misunderstandings as to who said what, when it was said, where it was said, etc. I still follow these practices today.”

Copyright © 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Use The Active Voice; Minimize The Passive Voice.

Using the active voice as opposed to the passive voice has been written about extensively. Much of it is confusing. The secret of the active voice is to simply write more directly. In other words, to borrow the thought from a legendary songwriter, the late Johnny Mercer, you should “Accentuate the positive” in your writing.

More specifically, the active voice makes it clear who is supposed to perform the action in the sentence. When using the active voice in a sentence, the person who’s acting is the subject of the sentence. When the passive voice is used, the person who is acted upon is the subject of the sentence. The active voice eliminates ambiguity about responsibility for action; the passive voice obscures that responsibility. More than any other writing technique, use of the active voice will improve the quality of your writing.

The following examples reflect the difference:

Active – Albert and Bess missed the filing deadline for their tax return.

Passive – The deadline for filing their tax return was missed by Albert and Bess.

Active – A smart shopper buys only the freshest coffee.

Passive – Only the freshest coffee is bought by a smart shopper.

Active – The IRS has proposed new regulations.

Passive – New regulations have been proposed by the IRS.

Active – You need a fishing permit to fish in that lake.

Passive – A fishing permit is needed to fish in that lake.

Writing in the active voice will usually result in the elimination of abstract or vague words and a clearer, easier to understand sentence. Thus,

I purchased the airplane ticket,

is better than,

The airplane ticket was purchased by me.

We appreciated your report,

is better than,

Your report was appreciated by us.

Readers understand sentences in the active voice more quickly because the active voice is not only stronger and saves words but conveys the writer’s thought more directly.

Use the present tense of verbs, their strongest and simplest form, together with the active voice and a personal pronoun, to transform sentences and make them shorter, easier to understand, and more forceful and direct. Writing in the present tense helps to make your point clearly. Avoid the conditional or future tense when possible.

Before – The following summary is intended to assist buyers in understanding the costs and expenses that will be incurred if product A is purchased.

After – This summary describes costs and expenses that you will incur for the purchase of product A.

Another example:

Before – The subscription to the X Journal may be cancelled at any time.

After – You may cancel your subscription to the X Journal at any time.

Even a past event may be clarified by writing in the present tense as much as possible:

Your policy may not cover you
if you did not file a claim within
30 days of the date of injury.

The foregoing information may be found in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on Books, and in print.

Copyright © 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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An Open Letter To The President

Dear President Obama:

It has now become clear to the country and the entire world that you do not have any capacity to lead. The fiasco over Syria is only the latest in a whole string of leadership failures on your part. Russia is now the main player in Syria; your staggeringly inept diplomacy has allowed the U.S. to become a second rate power and a laughing stock. Leading from behind, your trademark, is not the answer in this scenario or any other. The details are a matter of record and need not be recounted here. Suffice it to say that you have allowed Russia’s President Putin to seize the moment in this diplomatic power struggle. The point is simply this, that you have been, and are now, unqualified and incompetent to lead this country, and should never have been elected in the first place. But the fault is with American politics, which allows someone such as you with no leadership qualifications but with a gift for talk (empty talk at that)to run for office and get elected. Now the country is paying the price for its folly. The sad part is that the country needs leadership and you are simply incapable of providing it.

Aside from Syria, you have failed after some five years in office to do anything about the country’s high rate of unemployment. The wealth of this country was built on private enterprise, not big government. But this is a truism of history that you simply ignore. The country is drifting in a sea of joblessness with no end in sight. Capitalism, the mother’s milk of economic growth, is being stifled because of your big government policies. For example, as a result of Obamacare, which punishes businesses for not providing full time employees with health care coverage, employers are hiring fewer full time people to avoid the harsh financial penalties for noncompliance. The full financial consequences of this unfortunate piece of legislation are still to be determined. You want to take credit for the Affordable Care Act, but the lack of full understanding of this law and its unpopularity with the public at large again exemplifies your lack of leadership.

You have also failed to lead the way on holding anyone responsible for the 9/11/2012 Benghazi attacks, which took the lives of four Americans, including Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya. It is now a full year since the attacks occurred and few questions have been answered. The identity of the person(s) who gave/approved the “stand down” order which resulted in no military assistance being provided to those under siege is still unknown. If Hillary Clinton as then secretary of state is the one responsible for this act of incompetence, it should be revealed. The relatives of the deceased deserve better treatment from their own government. Your failure of leadership is again quite evident.

The Trans-Canada Keystone oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, with its attendant economic benefits including job creation is laying fallow because of political devotion to your environmental supporters. Environmental concerns can be overcome and should be subservient to the greater good from enabling of this pipeline project, not the least of which is energy independence and a reduction in U.S. reliance on oil imports from the middle east and Venezuela.

Mr. President, these are but a few of the concerns which need to be addressed because of your leadership failures.

Copyright 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Techniques For Final Review Of Your Writing

There are several considerations involved in a final review of any writing. One of the most important is the appearance of the document. Writing that appears cluttered and dense will create a negative reaction in any reader. Strive to create well spaced documents with ample margins.

Organization of your writing is also important to help the reader to understand different levels of information. Break up your writing into visually manageable pieces. There should not be more than five to six sections on each page. The use of shorter sentences and paragraphs and grouping related items together will make it easier for the reader to understand your writing.

Be discreet in the use of emphasis. Use bold type or italics to highlight important points but use them in moderation for maximum effect. Don’t capitalize everything or underline too much.

Typeface selection, use of tables and graphics, and layout and color, are also factors to consider.

But nothing is more important than the elimination of spelling errors and the use of correct punctuation. These items are of paramount importance.

This point must be made absolutely clear: misspelled words will cause all of your hard work to sink – fast. So, be forewarned! It is absolutely imperative to make sure your spelling is correct. Misspelled words in particular are the bane of good writing; nothing will undermine your hard work and turn a reader off faster than a misspelled word, particularly if it’s a common one. You must take the time to check the spelling of any word that looks suspicious to you. Resorting to a dictionary for new or difficult words should be the first and ongoing choice.

Many writers shortcut the correct spelling of words either because they don’t know the correct spelling or are too lazy to find out. Spelling “nite” instead of “night,” and “thru” instead of “through” is the result of careless, sloppy, or lazy writing and is disfavored in good writing. Don’t take any shortcuts with your spelling; they will stamp you as an amateur.

Another solution is to record all misspelled words on a separate sheet of paper; the act of writing down the correct spelling should in itself help you remember it. Keep this paper handy for continued reference and add to it on a regular basis. Try to understand why each word was misspelled.

You can also master the intricacies of good spelling through visualization. Good golfers are said to visualize each shot before hitting it. If it works in golf, it can work in spelling. Teach yourself to picture the correct spelling of all misspelled words in your mind. Concentrate on the correct spelling of these words to be sure you see every letter. Then look away, spell the word, and look back for verification. Repeat this procedure on a regular basis until you can instantly recognize the correct spelling of each previously misspelled word.

Clear writing also requires the use of correct punctuation.

To some extent, punctuation has the same use in writing that the use of gestures, pauses, and vocal inflections have in speaking, i.e., for emphasis, or to reveal the precise relationship of thoughts. But the use of punctuation goes beyond what is necessary for emphatic writing.

The use of correct punctuation makes writing more understandable, and aids in the smooth flow and clear presentation of information. Without punctuation, all writing would be a jumble of words. The correct use of punctuation will mark you as a superior writer. This entails knowing how to use end marks, commas, apostrophes,quotation marks, semicolons, colons, dashes, and ellipsis. An accomplished writer will also be skilled in the use of parentheses and brackets, and be able to distinguish between the two.

Copyright 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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The Mysterious Element of Syntax Is the Key to Effective Writing

In my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” (available on books and in print), I have devoted several pages to explaining how use of syntax can help your writing to become more effective. Here is what I have written:

“What exactly is syntax? How can it help you to write more clearly? And, how does it differ, if at all, from diction?

To answer these questions takes a little digging. A good dictionary definition provides some help. One definition provided by Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Ed., p. 1269, is that syntax means “…a connected or orderly system: harmonious arrangement of parts or elements…” That helps a little bit. The same source provides another definition: “…the way in which linguistic elements (as words) are put together to form constituents (as phrases or clauses)…” That helps a little more.

So, how does all of this relate to clear writing? Let’s find out.

Good syntax makes good sense. It deals with the orderly arrangement of words in a sentence. Diction, dealing with the selection of the right words, is to be distinguished. So, it can be said that words carry the meaning, the power, but syntax controls their effect on the reader.

We now have a better understanding of what syntax means, but we still need to know how it helps us to write more clearly and how to acquire it.

Syntax involves adding rhythm and color to your writing. These are an indispensable part of clear writing, and should be as much a part of your writing as your heartbeat is to you. Thus, there should be a beat to your writing much as a poet includes a beat to his/her lines. As noted in “The Way To Write,” John Fairfax and John Moat, St. Martin’s Press, 1981, p. 66, Byron used the thunder of horsemen as the meter for his poem,
The Destruction Of Sennacherib:

“The Assyrian came down like a wolf
on the fold,

And his cohorts were gleaming in purple
and gold;

And the sheen of their spears was like

stars on the sea,

When the blue wave rolls nightly
on deep Galilee.”

The same little booklet, at p. 58, provides another example of what the authors believe is “spectacular” syntax in the following quote from an unidentified Hemingway novel:

“Living was a horse between your
legs and a carbine under one leg and
a hill and a valley and a stream with trees along it and the far side of the valley and
the hills beyond.”

The point to be made in all of this comes down to using the story teller as an example. Everyone likes a good story. Bob Sands, a well known copy righter who writes for AWAI (American Writers And Artists, Inc.), emphasizes the point that good copy writing is made even better by a good story. The order of words in the telling of the story is what provides the emphasis, the drama. The drama makes the story. An accomplished writer has a feel for the dramatic and can arrange his words to provide the best impact.

An inexperienced writer may struggle to write a sentence that provides the best effect on the reader. But, once more experience is obtained, a writer will get a feel for the best order of his words. This will result in clear meaning, logical presentation of information, and maximum effect on the reader.

A final example, what Messrs. Fairfax and Moat characterize as “superb” syntax, is provided by no less familiar a name than Shakespeare’s Macbeth:

“Life’s but a walking shadow;
a poor player,

Who struts and frets his hour upon
the stage,

And then is heard no more: it is a

Told by an idiot, full of sound and

Signifying nothing…” (Id. p. 59).

A gift for words may carry with it a gift for syntax. The two may be the same. But, as with other aspects of writing, the gift for syntax does not come gift-wrapped with a ribbon – it must be nurtured and developed, by guidance and constant practice, by developing the ear.”

Copyright 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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The False Promise of Howard Zinn’s Anti-Americanism

An important Wall Street Journal article this week pointed out how Howard Zinn, the Marxist historian, and a former member of the Communist Party in 1949 is making the academic left and Hollywood more influential than ever. This excellent article by David J. Bobb, director of the Hillsdale College Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship, in Washington, D.C., takes direct aim at the “impressive empire devoted to the spread of [Zinn’s] ideas.” Now, this entire movement fostered by Zinn’s relentless criticism of “alleged American imperialism” is in my opinion nothing more than a communist manifesto style of anti-Americanism.

Zinn, who died in 2010, is the author of “A People’s History of the United States,” published in 1980. So far as Zinn is concerned, America is synonymous with brute domination of people that can be traced back hundreds of years. The Founding Fathers were nothing more than “self-serving elitists defined by guns and greed.” This is historical claptrap. According to Zinn, capitalists are villains controlling all basic material goods such as food and housing and that basically everything including healthcare, education, and transportation, should be free to everyone. What Zinn and his followers fail to understand is that communism stifles incentive and where there is no incentive there is no economic growth.

Endorsement of Zinn’s writings by the likes of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and other Hollywood notables is eminently unjustified. Here are two actors who have made millions as a direct result of the workings of American capitalism but who nevertheless are Zinn supporters. As the article points out, both are Zinn family friends. This is nothing more than hypocrisy at its best.

Any supporter of communism who wants to try out its ballyhooed heroic workers glory need only live under it to experience the mass despair and misery that plagues everyday life under that system. One need only to look at North Korea and Cuba, two countries beset by not only economic stagnation but an absence of human rights, to know that this “workers paradise” does not work for the masses. Those who glorify it should go and live in any country where communism is the way of life before preaching its ideals. China also has a communist government but a capitalistic economic system. And how much freedom for the masses is there in China?

Any institution of learning that allows Zinn’s works to be presented should also temper any such presentation with a hard look at present conditions under communism as well as those that were extant under the former Soviet bloc. Those who would cast capitalism as a villain should try going into business where communism exists and not free enterprise. Capitalism may not be perfect – it surely has its faults – but it’s the best system yet invented by man to foster economic growth and wealth as the history of this country will attest. Those who live in this country and enjoy its many freedoms but nevertheless clamor for the “social justice” endorsed by Zinn’s writings
simply ignore the harsh realities of life where our freedoms do not exist.

Copyright 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Countdown To Infamy

Posts of historical interest will appear on this site from time to time. The current subject, an account of informal conversations between the United States and Japan during the period from October 17, 1941 to December 7, 1941, leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, will be presented in a series of several installments.

In its Official Report, forty eight pages long, the U.S. State Department describes in minute detail the deteriorating relations between the United States and Japan from October 17, 1941, to and including December 7, 1941. Prepared by state department officials and dated May 19, 1942, this memorandum purports to be an accurate account of informal conversations between the United States Government, including Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Under Secretary Sumner Welles. It includes verbatim copies of correspondence between from various U. S. and Japanese officials, as well as memoranda authored by certain of them. The Report summarizes events leading up to the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval forces at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the ensuing American declaration of war against Japan the following day.

There are many interesting observations to be made from a historical standpoint. The Report opens with the resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Prince Konoye on October 16, 1941. Apparently unable to reconcile the conflicting forces that raged within his own government between those who favored continued negotiations with the United States and those who favored war, Konoye resigned in the hope that someone would be found who favored keeping the door open to continued negotiations.

Each article in this series will present a summary of the almost daily communications between the two countries. Although there are countless histories of the relations between the United States and Japan in the period leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, I am not aware of any which describe in such minute detail as contained in the State Department memorandum the communications between officials of the two countries.

This historic vantage point provides a first-hand insight into the efforts undertaken by the two countries to negotiate a continuation of the uncertain but ongoing efforts to preserve peace. As will be made clear in the articles to follow, the position of the United States was clear: There must be specific responses by Japan to the points made by the U.S. as to Japanese intentions in the Far East, not the vague generalities which had marked their previous replies to U.S. communications.

The opening days of 1941 portrayed a grim picture of the world. The Tripartite Pact, concluded in September, 1940, had unified Germany, Italy and Japan into a formidable force of Axis powers. Prospects for world peace ranged from nonexistent to shaky at best, depending on what part of the world drew your focus.

The all too real specter of war had become a terrifying reality as conflict once more engulfed Great Britain, France, Germany, and most of the rest of Europe. The acuteness of the situation in Europe was but one of many significant factors facing the United States in January, 1941.

Nazi Germany’s huge military machine, including massive land and air forces built up surreptitiously over a period of years, had subjugated most of Europe. Austria had been annexed in March, 1938 without firing a shot. The Sudetenland was occupied in September, 1938 without opposition, by agreement. The entirety of Czechoslovakia was sacrificed to the Nazi beast by the Munich arrangement, with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returning to England proclaiming to the crowds, “peace in our time.” The unprovoked Nazi attack on Poland in September, 1939, and its subsequent occupation was followed by declarations of war on Germany by Britain and France.

In 1940, after the German breakthrough of French defenses, France was overrun in six weeks. What remained of the British Expeditionary Force, however, was successfully evacuated from France at Dunkirk. The Dutch were overwhelmed by the Nazi onslaught, brought on without any pretext or warning. Belgium had surrendered, and Bulgaria and Rumania were being crushed under the Nazi heel.

In mid-1940, Mussolini had thrown the weight of his Italian forces behind Hitler by declaring war on Great Britain and France. But Mussolini’s efforts to assert himself as a force to be reckoned with would eventually lead to the failure of Italian Fascism and his own capture and summary execution in 1943.

Events unfolding in the Far East, however, were also of great concern to the United States. The threat from Japan had continued to grow over the years. Its 1931 invasion and occupation of Manchuria had signaled its expansionist aims. Despite diplomatic conversations with Russia, large Japanese forces were still maintained there. The Japanese had invaded China in 1937 and moved into Northern Indochina in the summer of 1940. The growing potential threat from Japan extended to all powers interested in the Pacific. These included the Netherlands, British Malaya, Burma, India, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

By early 1941, restrictions on exports to Japan from the United States of iron, steel, most important metals, machinery, high quality gasoline and blending agents, together with plants and plans for the production of high quality gasoline, had further increased tensions between the two countries.

While Japan’s expansion into China and Southeast Asia was a continuing source of concern for the United States, the country had passed through a Presidential election whereby both major political parties had written into their respective platforms unequivocal opposition to involvement in foreign wars.

Copyright © 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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You Don’t Have To Memorize Grammar Rules To Write Clearly

In my book “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on Books and in print, I have urged readers to use word association as a means of learning good grammar, rather than to memorize rules. This approach has worked for me and it can work for you. Here is what I wrote:

“This book breaks with the traditional approach to teaching English grammar in that it eschews memorization of rules. Memorization of grammar rules is of little use except to pass examinations. It has been my personal experience that as you train yourself to observe and appreciate good writing, you can likewise train yourself to develop and employ good writing habits in constructing sentences. This result cannot be accomplished by memorization of rules, which will have little effect on learning and understanding the context with which words are used. But, when in doubt, look up the rule.

The best expression of thoughts through good grammar can be learned by observing the association of the right word with the appropriate context in a sentence. The emphasis should be on training your eye to carefully observe how grammar is used in putting sentences together and to constantly practice what you have learned in your writing. The point was well made many years ago by the late Sherwin Cody, who authored several books and self study courses on writing and learning good English. Learn grammar by “original processes”, he wrote, “not by authorities and rules.” (See: New Art of Writing and Speaking The English Language, 59, Sherwin Cody, 1933, 1938).

Clear writing can be achieved even if you are unable to apply grammatical labels to the various parts of speech contained in a sentence. Even if you can’t diagram a sentence to break out the parts of speech or if you don’t know a pronoun from an adverb, you can still learn to write clearly.

Studying the logical relationship of words in a sentence as you read is most important in learning
the practical skills of word usage. In this way you need not concern yourself with the technical definition of, for example, weak or buried verbs, as long as your eye is practiced enough to pick them out of a sentence.

This level of writing ability can only be achieved through dedicated study and the continued practice of writing. The secret is practice, practice, practice and, also, read extensively. Read books, magazines, and newspapers to see how experienced writers put words and sentences together. This will help you develop the right “feel” for your writing.

I urge you to follow this approach.”

The use of good grammar is indispensable to clear writing. The benefits of clear writing have also been explained in my book, as follows:

“In today’s world, language is predominant. It is vital to all communications, and is the key to your personal and business success. The power of the written word is far reaching and depends in turn on the quality of your writing. Writing is therefore of utmost importance.

The ability to write clearly is a requirement for anyone trying to get ahead. Without it, you have little chance to inform or persuade others. Unclear writing wastes both time and money. Your success will largely depend on how well you express yourself.

Whether you are writing for a personal or business purpose, it is the writer’s job to be clear, not the reader’s job to figure out what you’re trying to say. The March Hare’s admonition to Alice, “…you should say what you mean,” also applies perforce to writing. (See: Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, 97, Lewis Carroll, New Ed., MacMillan & Co., 1885). Remember, you are promoting yourself when you write. Poor writing will not only lead to loss of credibility but will stamp you as an amateur and may well cause your reader to stop reading. Good writing sells itself.

It’s Never Too Late To Learn!

Even lawyers, with all their education, are not always good writers. In a profession which devotes extensive time and effort to the written word, it may be surprising to learn that lawyers and judges still strive to improve their writing skills. Bryan Garner, a well known attorney and respected authority in the field of legal writing, has devoted extensive time to lecturing and writing on the subject of legal writing for judges and lawyers. His excellent writing lectures, several of which I attended, have been given across the country. One of his publications, The Winning Brief, which I used extensively as a practicing lawyer, contains a wealth of writing tips which should be useful to non-lawyers as well as lawyers. (See: The Winning Brief, Bryan A. Garner, Oxford University Press, 1999). This is another lead to pursue for those of you really serious about improving your writing.”

Copyright©2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Summary of Clear Writing Guidelines and Techniques

Many clear writing guidelines and techniques have been covered on this blog site over the past several months. They have been summarized in my book “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on Kindle Books and in print. In order to facilitate reader review, I have quoted this portion of my book below.

“This book introduces fundamental guidelines and techniques necessary to develop clear writing skills. The guidelines and techniques discussed in this book may seem obvious to some readers and appear to be common sense to others, but they are important, time-tested approaches to developing a writing style that will lead to the creation of a final, clearly written document.

Writing is no different from any other undertaking in life: you have to start at the
beginning to master it. All art is created through the exercise of a craft such as painting, sculpting,
etc. Every craft must be taught and learned, including writing. Clear writing is an art form because it can be learned through the craft of writing. Almost everyone can write to some degree, but to write clearly is a goal worthy of achievement. The long hours and hard work it may take to get there are tasks eminently worth the effort. Remember that a clearly written document will speak well of the author and the purpose it seeks to advance.

Develop and maintain a strong belief in your ability to write clearly. You can do it if you train yourself to do it, but it takes dedicated effort and continued practice.

The five fundamental guidelines discussed in this book should apply to any writing project, no
matter whether you are writing in English or any other language. Here is a summary:

First, develop confidence in your ability to write clearly by writing every day. Read extensively and study the writing style of experienced writers.

Second, learn to recognize clear writing. You will know it when you see it. A clearly written document should flow smoothly, be easy to read, and be visually attractive.

Third, get organized. Thoroughly plan your writing by organizing your thinking. Prepare a mental blueprint of what you’re going to write, then, prepare an outline that closely reflects your
blueprint. This is, perhaps, the most important step of all to improve the clarity of your writing.

Fourth, know your reading audience. If you don’t know who you are writing for, you may as well not write at all.

Fifth, know your subject matter. Become a maven on the content of your writing. You need expert knowledge to write with authority on any subject. If you try to fake it, your reader will see right through you. Take the time to research your subject matter thoroughly. The result will be high quality content, a vital ingredient for any successful writer.

Develop the many writing techniques discussed in this book by continuous practice. Dedicate yourself to writing every day. Build your vocabulary so you can find the right word when you need it. Be concise in your writing, use shorter sentences, carefully edit all writing before using it, and, most importantly, eliminate all spelling errors.

Also, read good books, magazines, and newspapers. Expose yourself to experienced writers whenever and wherever you can. Learn from their style. Make a list of all new words, learn them, and learn how to use them. Become familiar with all punctuation marks and their application. Train your eye to learn grammar by word association rather than by definition. This is your homework, so to speak. The more thoroughly you apply yourself, the clearer your writing will be.

As a final thought, the creation of a paper trail, as discussed in the introduction to section two, will go a long way towards helping you achieve clear writing success. It’s good practice to memorialize all deadlines in writing as well as confirm all past and future events to prevent misunderstandings. Follow up important letters and emails with a letter and/ or memorandum to the file.

Keep your writing objectives in full view at all times. Clear writing is not easy to achieve. It’s hard
work, very hard work. But when you’re finished writing, dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s, rewritten and revised the document for the umpteenth time until you can’t look at it anymore, then, like an artist, you can sit back and admire your work with the knowledge you’ve given it your best shot.

At this point, assuming you have been diligent in applying the guidelines and techniques discussed in this book, you should begin to notice a definite improvement in your writing. This improvement may not be noticeable overnight but will be over a period of time. Keep working on it!”

Copyright © 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Union Disaster at Chickamauga – Prelude To Its Death Grip on the Confederacy

With the approach of Memorial Day, it seems fitting to devote this week’s blog to one of the Civil War’s most notable, if lesser known battles, Chickamauga Creek.

This blog marks my third venture into writing about significant Civil War battles. The first one dealt with the battles of Antietam and Gettysburg, two pivotal battles that saved the Union. The second one focused on the battle of Shiloh and the rise of U.S. Grant. Both are available as articles on Books. Here, I continue the thread addressed in the second article, which follows the career of U.S. Grant. In this blog, Grant, as a Major General, is named commander of all Union armies, save for a small area in the southwest, and immediately exercises his authority to relieve beleaguered General William Rosecrans following the disaster at Chickamauga Creek, south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The counterattack led by General George H. Thomas, who replaced Rosecrans, drove the Rebels back into northern Georgia and opened the gateway to the South for Union follow up and ultimate Confederate collapse.

The year 1863 saw a continuation of the fearful struggle of the Civil War. In early 1863, after the battle at Stones River near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Confederate General Braxton Bragg withdrew his forces southward leaving Union General William Rosecrans (“Old Rosy”) in possession of that town. The spring of 1863 saw U.S. Grant driving down the Mississippi River as part of the renewal of his campaign against Vicksburg, Mississippi, some 200 miles upriver from New Orleans, Louisiana. In northern Virginia, Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s attacks caused withdrawal of Union General Joseph Hooker’s forces north from Chancellorsville, Virginia and across the Rappahannock River. In July, a major Union victory at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where the second attempt by Confederate General Robert E. Lee to invade the north was repulsed by Union forces led by General George Meade. However, there were events shaping up in western Tennessee as well which were also significant.
With the approach of Memorial Day, it seems fitting to devote this week’s blog to one of the Civil War’s most notable, if lesser known, battles, Chickamauga Creek.

President Abraham Lincoln wanted Rosecrans to get moving in Tennessee as well to keep pressure on the Confederates in as many places at one time as possible. In August, 1863, the skillful maneuvering of the Union Army of the Cumberland led by Rosecrans had feinted Confederate General Braxton Bragg into abandoning Chattanooga, a vital railroad junction, and to pull back his army into northern Georgia. This very successful result obtained with relatively few Union casualties caused Rosecrans to be hailed as a hero in his native Ohio. But it was soon followed by Rosecrans overextending his lines as he chased Bragg through mountain gaps below Chattanooga and presaged a Union disaster that was soon to follow at Chickamauga Creek (a Cherokee word meaning “River of Blood,” according to some historians), just south of Chattanooga.

But a heavily reinforced Bragg halted his retreat from Chattanooga and turned on the pursuing Federal army. Engaging Rosecrans along Chickamauga Creek, the collision of the two opposing armies resulted in a bloody two-day battle. When a poorly worded order caused one of Rosecrans’s divisions to pull out to support another unit, a huge, two mile gap was created in the Union line which was exploited by Confederate General James Longstreet as attacking Rebel troops poured through the gap and overran the Federals. Rosecrans ordered General Thomas to take over as Rosecrans was forced to fall back to Chattanooga. For his valiant efforts in shielding Rosecrans’s withdrawal, Thomas became known as the “Rock of Chickamauga.”

The devastating Union loss at Chickamauga Creek on September 19-20, 1863, could have spelled doom for Rosecrans’ Union Army of the Cumberland. But Confederate General Braxton Bragg, appalled at his own losses, hesitated in following up the Rebel triumph by allowing Rosecrans to retreat to Chattanooga and thereby preserve his army while Bragg occupied Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain, mountains south of Chattanooga. Bragg had followed the retreating Rosecrans from Chickamauga and taken possession of Missionary Ridge overlooking Chattanooga and also occupied Lookout Mountain, west of Chattanooga, which Rosecrans had abandoned. Rosecrans also lost control of the Tennessee River and River Road to Bridgeport. Chickamauga became the worst Union loss in the Western Theater. These circumstances in Grant’s view justified Rosecrans’s replacement, effectively ending his military career.

Bragg’s mistakes ultimately led to a Union triumph after Grant, in October, 1863, ordered Rosecrans to be replaced by General Thomas. This order had come about after Grant had received a personally delivered notification from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton naming him as commander of the newly formed Military District of Mississippi. This district combined the departments of Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee under Grant’s command and included all of the territory from the Appalachians to the Mississippi River north of the area occupied by Banks forces in the southwest.

Combined Federal forces led by Thomas, Hooker, and General William Tecumseh Sherman, under Grant’s overall command, led their troops in attacks on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain causing the Rebels to retreat in chaos and ultimately led to the resignation of Bragg. The pell-mell pullback of Rebel troops from Missionary Ridge was particularly galling as the Rebel position had been supposedly impregnable.

The Union victory ultimately opened the way for Sherman’s campaign to Atlanta and subsequent epic march to the sea. Confederate armies would never mount another counterattack and would be reduced to parrying Union blows like an aging, worn out, and overmatched fighter. It marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy.

In Retrospect

As a long time resident of the Los Angeles vicinity there were many times that I drove south on the I-405 freeway past LAX airport. The first off ramp west past the airport is Rosecrans Blvd. With my continuing interest in the Civil War over the years and in particular my research for this blog, I came to realize and understand General Rosecrans’s contribution to the war effort for the Union cause.

In this era of electronic communications not everyone has the chance to read books on the Civil War. Hopefully this blog will help to fill the gap in knowledge that may be present in those who are interested in this area but do not have the time to read deeply about it.

Copyright © 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.


Filed under active voice, clear writing, good diction, history, punctuation, sound sentence structure, tips for good diction, Writing Improvement