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Legal Writing Handbook | Insurance | Seminar

Legal Writing Handbook

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I. Writing In The Law Office (cont.)

B. Common Grammar Problems (cont.)

Who, Whose and Whom

The who/whom issue is a big pain in the neck. Fortunately the use of whom is dying out. Unfortunately it is not dying out fast enough. Perhaps our grandchildren will not have to fool with it, but we do.

When who refers to the subject of a sentence the correct form is "who." Since we rarely think in grammatical forms, a substitution can be helpful.

Here is a hint: see if the words he, she, or they can substituted for who. If so, would be appropriate to use who in the sentence.

Whom is the objective form of the word who. See if the words him, her, or them would be appropriate.

When who introduces a subordinate clause its case depends upon its function in that subordinate clause.

The same is true of whoever:

Give the prize to whoever wins.

Give the prize to whomever the judges choose.

The object of "to" is the phrase, not the word whoever:

Who wins? He wins.

Whom do the judges choose? The judges choose him.

Pronouns on either side of "to be" are in the nominative case. Although may people say feel that this sentence is wrong or awkward, the following sentences correctly utilize who/whom:

Who shall I say is calling?

Who is calling? He is calling.

Whom shall I introduce? I shall introduce him.

Plural Forms of Words

Plurals of English words can be a problem, especially in written English:

Back in the days of telegrams a movie director was making a movie that called for some mongoose action. He sat down to write a note to the animal trainer. He wrote, "Bill quick bring two mongooses."

He looked at the note and decided that it did not look right and began again. "Bill send me two mongeese."

That looked worse than the first. He again tore up the note and wrote. "Bill bring over two mongoose."

That did not look right either so he finally tore that note up as well and wrote, "Bill send me a mongoose, and while you are at it send me another one."

Prudent writers sometimes reword a thought simply to avoid using a questionable or improper form of a word. Both of us have done so in our legal writing, because the old adage of better safe than sorry is not a bad motto.

An adjective modifies nouns.

An adverb modifies verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.


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