Presentation on theme: "ADAPTED FROM: THE LEGAL WRITING HANDBOOK – OATES, ENQUIST, & KUNSCH EFFECTIVE LEGAL WRITING – BLOCK Part 16 of the Legal Methods Lecture Series By Lisa."— Presentation transcript:
ADAPTED FROM: THE LEGAL WRITING HANDBOOK – OATES, ENQUIST, & KUNSCH EFFECTIVE LEGAL WRITING – BLOCK Part 16 of the Legal Methods Lecture Series By Lisa McElroy
Why Use Commas Correctly Commas are frequently used, and frequently missed, punctuation marks. They were invented to help readers comprehend information. Commas help the reader naturally pause at a break in information.
Coordinating Conjunctions Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction joining two main/independent clauses. There are seven coordinating conjunctions: “and,” “but,” “or,” “for,” “nor,” “so,” “yet.” The prosecutor spoke about the defendant’s motive, and the jury listened carefully. Independent Clause Conjunction Independent Clause
Setting Off Long Introductions Use a comma to set off long introductory clauses or phrases from the main/independent clauses. If an introductory clause precedes a main/independent clause, the comma will be needed to set off the place where the introductory material ends. As the Court of Appeals noted, delivery would require actual possession by the accused. Introductory Phrase
Non-Restrictive Phrases or Clauses Use a comma to set off non-restrictive phrases or clauses. a. Non-restrictive phrases or clauses modify the noun. Non- restrictive information means information not essential to the desired meaning of the sentence. Officer Bates, acting as a decoy, remained outside on the sidewalk. Non-restrictive Phrase Officer Bates, who was acting as a decoy, remained outside on the sidewalk. Non-restrictive Clause The desired meaning in both sentences is that Officer Bates remained outside. Her acting as a decoy is added information.
Restrictive Phrases or Clauses Restrictive phrases or clauses limit the meaning of the noun. Restrictive information means information essential for the desired meaning of the sentence. An officer acting as a decoy remained outside on the sidewalk. Restrictive Phrase An officer who acted as a decoy remained outside on the sidewalk. Restrictive Clause The desired meaning in both sentences is to distinguish this officer from others by pointing out that this officer was acting as a decoy in contrast to any other officer who might also be out on the sidewalk.
Appositives Use a comma to set off non-restrictive appositives. Appositives are noun/noun substitutes that follow a descriptive noun. Most appositives are non-restrictive and need to be set off by commas. The court sentenced the defendant, a juvenile, Noun Appositive to a term outside the standard range.
Participial Phrases Use a comma to set off non-restrictive participial phrases. Participles are formed from verbs and can serve as adjectives. Present participles end in “-ing;” Past participles end in “-d,” “-ed,” “-t,” “-n,” “-en.” The court denied the motion, finding that the Present Participle seizure fell under the plain view doctrine.
Transitions or Interruptions Use a comma or commas to set off transitional or interrupting words and phrases. Legal writers tend to break the flow of the sentence by intentionally inserting a word or a phrase in the main clause. It is easy to understand the interrupting word if it is set off by commas. The trial court, however, imposed an exceptional Interrupter sentence of thirty months.
Phrases of Contrast Use commas to set off phrases of contrast. Phrases of contrast begin with “not,” “but,” or “yet.” Adams initially indicated that he, not Wilson, Phrase of Contrast was involved in the robbery.
Coordinating Adjectives Use a comma between coordinating adjectives not joined by a conjunction. Coordinating adjectives are two or more adjectives that individually modify the same noun. To determine if it is a coordinating adjective, reverse the order of the adjectives or add an “and.” If the adjective is a coordinating adjective, the order or adding “and,” will not change the meaning. Precise, concise language Concise, precise language Precise and concise language
Items in a Series Use commas between items in a series. Series are 3 or more items grouped together in parallel form as single words, phrases, or clauses. Single Word – Wong had no money, identification, or jewelry. Phrase – Mason moved twice during his escape, changed his name, and held four of five jobs. Clause – Jones could not remember who he was, where he lived, or what he did for a living.