Give a Clue (A Linguistic Whodunit)
vol. 96, no. 6 Mich. B.J. 60 (June 2017)
3 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2017
Date Written: June 30, 2017
This column cites and quotes a number of cases in which ambiguity caused by passive-voice phrasing determined the outcome or hindered a court's interpretation of a statute or pleading. The column presents this material within the context of a mock British murder mystery, complete with thinly veiled references to characters from the popular board game Clue. It's a short humor piece with a serious message to lawyers: passive voice is a substantive issue in the law, not merely a matter of style.
Keywords: passive voice, active voice, usage, ambiguity, syntax, writing, legal writing, grammar, plain language, plain English, clarity, vagueness, drafting, statutory construction, statutory interpretation
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