Potpourri

Legal Writing Tips

Use the proper case of pronoun.

The personal pronouns, as well as the pronoun who, change form as they function as subject or object.

Will Jane or he be hired, do you think?

The culprit, it turned out, was he.

We heavy eaters would rather walk than ride.

Who knocks?

Give this work to whoever looks idle.

In the last example, whoever is the subject of looks idle; the object of the preposition to is the entire clause whoever looks idle. When who introduces a subordinate clause, its case depends on its function in that clause.

Virgil Soames is the              Virgil Soames is the

Candidate whom we           candidate who

think will win.                       we think will win.
                                                  [We think he will win.]

Virgil Soames is the              Virgil Soames is the
candidate who                       candidate whom
we hope to elect.                    we hope to elect.
                                                  [We hope to elect him.]

A pronoun in a comparison is nominative if it is the subject of a stated or understood verb.

Sandy writes better than I. (Than I write.)

In general, avoid “understood” verbs by supplying them.

I think Horace admires       I think Horace admires
Jessica more than I.               Jessica more than I do.

Polly loves cake                     Polly loves cake
more than me.                        more than she loves me.

The objective case is correct in the following examples.

The ranger offered Shirley and him some advice on campsites.

They came to meet the Baldwins and us.

Let’s talk it over between us, then, you and me.

Whom should I ask?

A group of us taxpayers protested.

Us in the last example is in apposition to taxpayers, the object of the preposition of. The wording, although grammatically defensible, is rarely apt. “A group of us protested as taxpayers” is better, if not exactly equivalent.

Use the simple personal pronoun as a subject.

Blake and myself                   Blake and I stayed home.
stayed home.

Howard and yourself          Howard and
brought                                     brought
the lunch. I thought.             the lunch, I thought.    

The possessive case of pronouns is used to show ownership. It has two forms: the adjectival modifier, your hat, and the noun form, a hat of yours.

The dog has buried one of your gloves and one of mine in the flower bed.

Gerunds usually require the possessive case.

Mother objected to our driving on the icy roads.

A present participle as a verbal, on the other hand, takes the objective case.

They heard him singing in the shower.

The difference between a verbal participle and a gerund is not always obvious, but note what is really said in each of the following.

Do you mind me asking a question?
Do you mind my asking a question?

In the first sentence, the queried objection is to me, as opposed to other members of the group, asking a question. In the second example, the issue is whether a question may be asked at all.

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