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Law, Legitimacy, and the Maligned Adverb
Mississippi College Law Review (2015)
  • James M. Donovan, University of Kentucky
The standard rules for good writing dictate that adverbs should be avoided. They undermine the effectiveness of the text and detract from the author’s point. Lawyers have incorporated this general rule, leading them not only to avoid adverbs in their own writings but also to overlook them in the writings of others, including statutes. However, as philosopher Michael Oakeshott has argued, law happens not in the rules but in the adverbs. Through its adverbs the law allows moral space for the citizen to consent to the social order, rather than merely conforming to an imposed command to comply. To become desensitized to the power of adverbs or to presume that they are weak and unnecessary leads the reader not only to misunderstand the operation of the rule, but also to overlook the moral aspect that separates a society based on law from a power-based regime of command.
  • Legal writing,
  • Grammar,
  • Consent
Publication Date
Citation Information
James M. Donovan. "Law, Legitimacy, and the Maligned Adverb" Mississippi College Law Review Vol. 33 Iss. 3 (2015)
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