Language Tools

The language is a skill we attorneys can not ignore. Myself, I am learning it the hard way, starting out late and going through my self-imposed mental hurdles of a non-English speaking immigrant. Don't repeat my mistakes, start as soon as you can, and keep on learning and practicing. "If you want to be a good trial lawyer, learn to read, write, and speak the King's English, and do it now." F. Lee Bailey, "To Be a Trial Lawyer" (1994).

So on this page, I will post links to the resources on English I found useful and worthy of attention.

Starting with these two regular email subscriptions, both available free of charge:

Garner's Usage Tip - by Brian Garner, distributed by Oxford University Press (subscription page), and
Common Errors in English Usage Daily Entry - by Paul Brians, author of Common Errors in English Usage book (subscription page).

These collections both cover the same subject, but the approach is different: Garner's posts are very detailed, written in an academic style, observing the discussed word or rule from many angles; Brians's posts are short, humorous, and are intentionally written to address non-English speakers in the audience.

There is also a very useful blog, The Grammar Girl, but its email subscription comes very irregularly (may be it's me who failed to figure out how to tune it). Does not hurt at all to subscribe, but don't expect a daily email.

Talking about podcasts, my favorite is A Way With Words. Their podcast is professionally done, with regular updates and long, content-packed, episodes. The podcast is made available for many platforms; I personally have it working on both iTunes/Apple systems and Droid phones.

Free books: I'd start with "The King's English" by Fowlers brothers. It was published in 1908 and is now freely available. Granted, some usage rules have changed in the last hundred years, but the book still provides a great foundation and it is an entertainment to read.
Other notable books in public domain include: "Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech" by Edward Sapir; "On the Art of Writing" by By Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch.

Apps: there are several great dictionaries surrounding us, such as the ones embedded in MacOs, in Kindle, or an online free service at Wiktionary. There is also one available for Android phones, called "ColorDict." ColorDict does all what is expected from a full-service computerized dictionary (it returns a given word with a detailed description, provides US and Britain pronunciation, suggests synonyms, etc.), but it also has an extra feature--it consolidates several dictionary databases (presented in color-coded groups, hence the name of the app) and gives all relevant articles found at once, so that the user can on one page compare all different definitions and the usage samples. One dictionary I truly miss would be a database of all English nouns marked as "countable" or "not countable," so that we'll have a  source to turn to in determining whether a particular word needs an article before it. If you know of such collection in existence, please drop me a line!

[I stop here but will add more to this page in later installments.]

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