Bryan Garner on Words

Man smiling

Bryan A. Garner. Photograph by Terri Glanger.

Early each year, I collect for the Green Bag the most egregious gaffes to have appeared in the previous year’s law reviews. The abundant findings this time around prompted me to create an English-usage quiz for the readers of this column.

For each question, the law review cited actually printed the incorrect choice. Whether that’s the fault of the original author or a law review editor is an unanswerable question for most of us; but if you’re familiar with law review practices, you’ll probably agree that it’s fairer to name the journal than the author.

One thing to keep in mind is that language changes over time, and what begins as an error can ultimately become enshrined as good usage. The shift may take centuries. Until that shift happens, though, editors generally do their best to comply with prevailing literary usage. With the questions in this quiz, the language hasn’t yet come close to accepting the “incorrect” choices as standard written English.

The answers, of course, are printed at the end. But be disciplined! Try your hand at all the questions before you peek (not peak) at the answers.

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Bryan A. Garner, president of LawProse Inc., is also the editor-in-chief of Black’s Law Dictionary and the author of many books. Follow on Twitter @BryanAGarner.

This article was published in the April 2018 issue of the ABA Journal with the title “Test Your Usage Skills: Law review editors missed a few, so now we have this quiz for you.”