Your turn to vent: what do you see in written communication that bugs you?

For years now, my colleague Karen Sneddon and I have written a column, “Writing Matters,” for the Georgia Bar Journal.  We try to make it meaningful to lawyers and think we’ve accomplished that goal.  What I’d like to know is what bugs you?  I don’t want to even suggest ideas so fire away.  We’re going to put together future columns that address those that we haven’t, yet, covered.

Rant away!

About David

Professor of Law, Mercer University School of Law. Formerly Of Counsel, Taylor English Duma, LLP and in 2012-13, judicial clerk to Chief Judge Rader.

11 thoughts on “Your turn to vent: what do you see in written communication that bugs you?

  1. 5

    What bugs me? Patentese. In claim-drafting, sloppy unthinking over-use of a word, or linguistic tool, so that its usefulness and precision is eroded.

    In particular, every use of “comprises” where only “includes” is correct.

    A baseball team includes a pitcher. A soccer team includes a goalkeeper (together with ten outfield players). You cannot have a team in which every single member plays the pitcher or goalkeeper role. Nonsensical are statements such as that the claimed soccer team “comprises” a goalkeeper.

    It is the same with patent claims. Often I have to read that the claimed machine “comprises” something like “a cover” or a “vent” or a “detent”. There MUST be more to the machine than just the cover or the vent or the detent.

    Patent attorneys are supposed to be better with words than lay people. They ought not to write nonsense. It brings ridicule on their profession.

      1. 5.1.1

        The MPEP 2111.03 says “The transitional term “comprising”, which is synonymous with “including,” “containing,” or “characterized by,” is inclusive or open-ended and does not exclude additional, unrecited elements or method steps.” As the saying goes, when in Rome, speak Italian.
        But don’t speak English: The OED defines “comprise” as “to consist of” (along with a few other definitions).

  2. 4

    The passive voice is hated. That one needs to be remembered by me.

    Keep ’em coming… or I mean they need to be kept coming.

    1. 4.1

      Much as I hate the passive voice, I love irony:

      “Many a tame sentence can be made lively and emphatic by substituting a transitive in the active voice for some perfunctory expression as ‘there is’ or ‘could be heard.'”

      That is from From Stunk & White, advising against the passive voice!

      I was reminded of this! By Steven Pinker’s recent talk.

  3. 2

    Biolerplate about what constitutes a prima facie case of obviousness.

    Argument that goes like this:
    Claim says X
    Reference cited to limitation X contains words Y
    Words Y are not the same words as words for X
    Then nothing more than saying therefore X is not taught

    AF2.0 filings with multiple pages of changes.

    And if we’re going with form – People who fax to the office’s main fax number.

  4. 1

    Polysyllablizationalism and obfustication, generally.

    In patent work: failure to us a topic sentence so I have to figure out what all those facts in your big giant paragraph are doing there; writing a flat spec; writing a spec like you grew up in the forties; objects of the invention; mention of “the invention;” mention of an embodiment, another embodiment, and yet another embodiment; pasting the claims into the summary rather than writing a summary in the summary; passive voice; spurious incantations of magical words; the last silly paragraph of every patent.

Comments are closed.