English Grammar and Usage, Law Reviews, Law Schools

Law Review Editor Goes On Ironic Power Trip

My second story about editing in two days? Woohoo! Nothing is more exciting.

I hope people don’t get the wrong idea about my feelings when it comes to typos and grammatical errors. They should be avoided. I’m just saying there’s no reason to get all bent out of shape over them. There are thousands of opportunities to make a small error in typing or applying the arbitrary rules of the English language, and when an error happens, it should be noted and fixed with minimal drama. Instead there are people like this. Or this.

But if you’re going to rip a bunch of people for poor editing, at least try to keep typos and grammatical screw-ups in your email to a minimum.

Unlike this law journal editor….

This is the opening of an email an editor sent to the staff of a journal:

I am being really easy this week and I am not sending anything back. However, in the future I will not be so kind. Remember our goal is for our sub and cites to be envy of all other sub and cites. I want perfection or I am going to inclined to send it back. I am not going to tell how many mistakes I have to see before I send it back but know it’s not very many, so check and re-check. If you think I am wrong on something we can talk about it and find the correct solution, however, you will need bluebook evidence not anecdotal. Note I will keep sending stuff back until you get it right, all of it and I may not provide guidance why you are wrong. So do it right the first time. Look guys I know this is hard but you are in law school to be a professional, so start acting like it and turn in professional work. All of the criticism hereinafter is professional; I am trying to make you a better sub and citer, and show you the importance of getting small minute details correct. This isn’t fun for me. Additionally I am not listing your errors to embarrass you; I am listing them so they can be used as a learning experience for you and your teammates.

To borrow from Archer, this email is so ironic it’s like Alanis Morissette and O. Henry had a baby and named it “This-exact-email.” Here’s just a few thoughts:

  • “I want perfection or I am going to inclined to send it back.” Missing “be.” More importantly, why weaken the language? “I want perfection or I am going to send it back” is much stronger.
  • “I am not going to tell how many mistakes I have to see before I send it back but know it’s not very many, so check and re-check.” Because invisible benchmarks and thresholds are effective management techniques. Also there’s a comma missing. Actually, I’m just giving up on the missing commas.
  • “Note I will keep sending stuff back until you get it right, all of it and I may not provide guidance why you are wrong.” Speaking of effective management techniques…
  • “All of the criticism hereinafter is professional; I am trying to make you a better sub and citer, and show you the importance of getting small minute details correct.” I default to the immortal advice of Kurt Vonnegut: “Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”
  • At least the editor isn’t trying to embarrass people by publicly shaming them a few weeks into the school year.

I guess the defense could be that the editor is focused on citations and doesn’t have the time or interest in typos or grammar. The Bluebook is a harsh mistress and it can make anyone crazy. I mean, look what it did to Hitler.

Here are some highlights of the corrections offered:

  • “I in Id. is always capitalized.” Nope. Unless you’re not allowing “See” as a signal, which is fine, but you can’t get too uppity when someone applies proper Bluebooking when you’ve internally adopted a different standard.
  • “Compare is not a signal listed in bluebook.” Well, it is if the cite is then followed with “with.” Compare is also acceptable if the signal is being used as a verb.
  • “Nice job putting case name in front of the cite.” Even the compliments come off dickish.

At least the email ends on a positive note:

As you can tell we all things we can work on.

Indeed.

The full email is on the next page….

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