Skip to main content

Law Office of Ronald David Greenberg

Home
Site Map
Notice; disclaimer
About the firm
Contact the firm
Member Login
Curriculum Vitae
Publications (with links)
Publications (by date)
Posts
U.S. Navy tour of duty
Selected photos
Business Lwyr comment
Securitization comment
Work in progress
Selected references
Selected editorships
Startup businesses
Safire letter comment
Verbal skills importance
Business law importance
Humor importance
Experience importance
Work-life balance
Professional Engineering
Role of law importance
Pro bono activities
Army ballistic missile
Dedication

PAGE UNDER CONSTRUCTION (Draft 11/10/2012)


William Safire letter and communication (oral and written) skills

Contents

I. Background
A. Express gratitude
B. Longstanding interest in English usage
1. Emphasis on verbal skills as important component of curriculum
2. Goal of heightened awareness of the importance of verbal skills
3. Examples of longstanding emphasis on communication skills
4. In harmony with Mr. Safire's educational goals
5. Publicize importance of communication/verbal skills
C. Letter to William Safire
D. Style Manual
II. Letter intrinsically educational in content and purpose
A. Educational content and purpose of my letter
B. Educational content and purpose of I Stand Corrected
III. Educational issues
A. Grammatical
1. In particular: use of "otherwise" as adverb, adjective, or noun
2. In general: controversy between priscriptivists and descriptivists -- Barzun's letter
B. Humor in communication settings
C. Importance of verbal skills -- Barzun's book (chaos): prescriptivism v. descriptivism
D. Writer's attitude: Barzun's wisdom
IV. Conclusion


Please note: Because some links may become inactive, I have tried to provide sufficient redundancy for many of the links to sites below. 


Some cross-references in the text below to entries on the Navigation Bar are not included on this page to economize on space. They in due course will be added in their own right on this page.  Currently they are in "Gallery 1b: William Safire letter and verbal skills" available athttp://www.ronalddavidgreenberg.com.



I. Background:

A. Express gratitude: I want to express my gratitude here for Mr. Safire'shaving chosen to include my letter in his book, I Stand Corrected: More on Language from William Safire136-137 (1984). The book is a well-organized valuable source containing the accumulated knowledge of Mr. Safire and the letter-writers he includes in it on issues of English usage. It should be, as a treasure trove of scholarship, an important publication of great educational value. I was honored to have my letter included in his book.

Professor Barzun's letter (at p. 134 of I Stand Corrected) commenting on a different "On Language" column (not the one about which I wrote may letter) entitled "double genitives" was interesting. I was grateful to see Professor Barzun's letter particularly because I have long been a fan of his. I read his book on writing -- Jacques Barzun On Writing, Editing, and Publishing: Essays Explicative and Hortatory(1971) -- many years ago (circa 1970s shortly after it came out) and have long followed his thoughts in it on writing.

I was also grateful to see that Professor Barzun also cited Fowler and Follett in his letter to Mr. Safire. Also, no other letters in the book are listed in the index as citing Follett, and only a few others are listed as citing Fowler (one of which is by Mr. Safire in his column entitled ""word-watchers at work" (at p. 435)). The apparent lack of interest generally paid to Follett and Fowler indicated that the awareness of their works probably needs to nurtured. Or they may be descriptivists not interested in a precriptivism par excellence. The writers submitting letters seem well-versed in English usage, and that they would not cite these two authorities to a greater extent perhaps indicates that some work perhaps needs to done on this issue -- at least more publicity, perhaps, in the general population. Granted that Fowler and Follett are prescriptivists, still from an educational point of view, an argument can be made that even descriptivists should be conversant, at least, with these two, and other, authorities. This conclusion seems appropriate even if for the person falling into the descriptivist camp. See infra,
III.A.2. In general: Controversy between prescriptivists an descriptivists -- Barzun’s letter: prescriptivism v. descriptivism.

B. My longstanding interest in English usage:

1. Emphasis on verbal skills as important component of curriculum:
   For many years I noted the quality of English usage in various media (e.g., radio, television, newspapers, magazines, and books) with some misgivings. I have long been interested in this topic as an educator -- especially in its basic dimensions-- observing the occasional, at times widespread, misuse or at least lack of clarity. I collected quotations and clippings from these various sources as examples of bad English, thinking of this material as research for an article on the importance of verbal skills in communication.

I eventually came to believe, with the help of the wise counsel of Candyce Golis, however, that an article commenting on the mistakes of others was not particularly politic, even though I could change the wording and keep the target of the criticism anonymous. Plus, many publications existed on the subject. Probably more basic was the realization that I was by no means highly knowledgeable in the fine points of what constitutes so-called proper English, though I probably have fairly decent grasp of the basic conventions. Perhaps this skepticism was born from my feeling that, as a science and engineering major in college, I was lacking even in the basics of verbal skills.

Given these sentiments, I had some misgivings about even writing a letter to Mr. Safire, though it was a private communication to him alone, criticizing his English usage in his column "On Language" in the New York Times. Nevertheless, I wrote a letter to him that was critical of his using of "or otherwise" in one of his columns.

The letter notes his use of "or otherwise" in his "On Language" column entitled “ 'early on' and on and on" in the New York Times Magazine, April 12, 1981). The letter was published along with other letters by Times Books in W. Safire, I Stand Corrected: More on Language from William Safire 136-137 (1984).

I did not envision Mr. Safire's publishing a book that included letters criticizing his English usage. When I wrote the letter, circa 1980-
1981, I do not now recall whether I was aware that his On Language (1980) had been published, which included letters to him from fans and others correcting him on English usage. So when he published I Stand Corrected, I was pleasantly surprised. Although I was happy and honored that he had chosen to include my letter in his book, I did not give the letter much further thought until around 1990, when I assembled a handout to students in my classes at Columbia. The handout, entitled Style Manual, included excerpts from Strunk and White, Fowler, Follett, and Safire. The excerpt from Safire was from his I Stand Corrected.   See infra, I.D. Style Manual.

 

More specifically, the letter sent to Mr. Safire comments on his use of "or otherwise" in the last sentence of his "On Language" column entitled " 'early on' and on and on" in the New York Times Magazine. The main part of the letter cites, among other authorities, Henry W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage(2d ed.1965), Wilson Follett, Modern American Usage(1966), Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (unabridged 1970); Oxford English Dictionary (1977); E. Gowers, The Complete Plain Words (1962). The letter ends with the following last sentence and valediction: "I hope that with respect to the word "otherwise" you will now ask yourself how your column could be written otherwise (differently), otherwise (or else) I may be forced, sensibly or otherwise (without good sense), to write to you again. Sincerely (not otherwise) yours." The last sentence and valediction were an attempt to soften, with a little humor, the criticism in the letter.

2. Goal of heightened awareness of the importance of verbal skills: My renewed attention to the letter stems from the realization that it can provide an opportunity to heighten awareness of the importance of verbal skills. A long-sought goal of mine. See supra, Background (first full paragraph). It may serve as a catalyst in this endeavor. It perhaps can also be effective in furthering Mr. Safire's goal of getting "more players" (see Mr. Safire'sbook (Introduction at ix) to join "either side" -- "prescriptivist "or "descriptivist" -- for those of you who "care about the language you use and are moved to influence others to write or speak more clearly or colorfully." To wit:

Highlight on this site and via publications in scholarly journals the qualities of I Stand Corrected: More on Language from William Safire, a treasure trove of scholarship and educational value. The potential audience for this book may be stimulated to read it, as well as his others on language, andperhapsother books by other authors on language. Educational institutions may find a renewed, or first-time, interest in this literature. The book is an effective educational tool that can be used in furthering Mr. Safire's goal of encouraging and attaining awareness of the importance of verbal skills in educational institutions and the citizenry at large. See, infra, at I.D.  In harmony with Mr. Safire's educational goals. These targets include institutions from grammar schools to universities as well as the citizenry from all walks of life and educational backgrounds. Mr. Safire in his book encourages others interested in the use of our language to join with him, whether as a prescriptivist or as a descriptivist (in Introduction at ix). Given the inherent importance of the subject, I do not think that this hope is a pipe dream. It has important practical implications, for example, in business, the military, the media, and normal everyday interactions among a nation’s people. See infra, III.A.2. In general: Controversy between prescriptivists an descriptivists -- Barzun’s letter: prescriptivism v. descriptivism.

• Highlight on this site and via publications in scholarly journals the merits of the letter as an educational tool to heighten awareness of the importance of verbal skills, both in educational institutions and the citizenry at large (from grammar schools to universities as well as among the citizenry from all walks of life and educational background). See infra, III.A.2. In general: Controversy between prescriptivists an descriptivists -- Barzun’s letter: prescriptivism v. descriptivism. The letter also might provide an example of modest scholarship coupled with some wit in encouraging that an educational institution's curriculum reflect the importance of verbal skills. The letter also could be an effective instrument in furthering Mr. Safire's goal of encouraging others interested in the use of our language in joining with him, whether as a prescriptivist or as a descriptivist (in Introduction to I Stand Corrected at ix). See, infra, at I.B.4. In harmony with Mr. Safire's educational goals.

 

 

Click here for more details on Mr. Safire's book. Click here for more details on his book and Mr. Safire. Click here for more information on Mr. Safire generally. For more information on his book in Google results, click here. For an excerpt of letter in Google™ books, click here. For more details on his "Gotcha! Gang" (his "On Language" column has had its "Gotcha! Gang" (error spotters) for many years) in Google, click here.

See "Curriculum Vitae" at "Research & Publications" then at "Other" and then at "Letter to William Safire" on Navigation Bar. Click here for an excerpt of letter in Google books. Click here for more information on his book.
Click here for excerpt of his "On Language" column appearing in the New York Times Magazine, April 12, 1981, entitled " 'early on' and on and on" (upper part only of column excluding relevant part on which letter commented). See also "publications (with links)" at "Other" on Navigation Bar; "curriculum vitae" at "Teaching/Examination Practices" on Navigation Bar.

 

3. Examples of longstanding emphasis on communication skills:

a. Edwin Newman(circa 1974):

An early influence on my interest in communication skills was Edwin Newman in his book Strictly Speaking: Will America be the death of English (1974). Click here for more on Mr. Newman. Click here for more on his book.

b. Lawyers as wordsmiths (1960s):

A wordsmith isa person who works with
words,especiallya skillful writer, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wordsmith. The American Heritage College Dictionary (3rd ed. 1997) defines a wordsmith as a "fluent and prolific writer, esp. one who writes professionally." A lawyer would seem to fit this definition. In any case, because lawyers engage in legal writing (e.g., legislation, contracts, regulations) in which they strive for clarity and precision, they would seem to be required to be wordsmiths.

But see, e.g., John Hendren, Workplace wordsmith corrects linguistic misdemeanors, SouthCoast Today (Aug. 25, 1996 12:00 AM), http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19960825/NEWS/308259952&cid=sitesearch (viewing the linguistic misdemeanors that “bankers, lawyers, doctors and other professional commit routinely *** so offended Baltimore writer and English professor Lynne Agress that she began a new career as a workplace wordsmith. Among the worst offenders are lawyers, who tend to write wordy, labyrinthine sentences in the passive voice with nouns capitalized at random, Ms. Agress said.”).

Nevertheless, my philosophy has long been since studying law that a lawyer should be a wordsmith, and I have tried to strengthen my communication skills accordingly. How does this obligation square with the prescriptivist/descriptivist controversy? Must a lawyer be a presciptivist? If lawyers or anyone else tended toward a descriptivist attitude in non-legal writing, would they be obliged to follow convention to avoid dangerous ambiguity? See infra at III.C. Importance of communication skills -- Barzun's book (chaos); prescriptivism v. descriptivism. Cf., e.g., Bryan A. Garner, Garner's Modern American Usage xii (2003) (consistent with the test to "avoid dangerous ambiguity" would be Garner's test that "A word or phrase is somewhat undesirable if it has any one of the following characteristics, and is worse if it has two or more: . . . (e) it blurs a useful distinction.")


 

c. Plain English movement (circa 1970-94):

Materials used for my courses (e.g., in basic business taxation and in basic business law) long-emphasized the use of plain language and other qualities of clarity in writing. See, e.g., Ronald David Greenberg, Materials on Basic Federal Income Taxation in Business Decisions 1-10 to 1-12 (7th ed. 1994) (quoting Fowler, Modern English Usage 411-412 (rev. by Sir Ernest Gowers, 2d ed. 1965) (commenting on officialese and legalese); quoting Sir Ernest Gowers, The Complete Plain Words9-25 (1962) (Gowers includes from the Spectator (Sept. 17 1943) a humorous example of jargon in Statutory Rules and Orders of a rule running over 100 words but in an Explanatary Note to the rule explained the rule clearly in "plain English" of under 20 words). See also, e.g., Ronald David Greenberg, Readings for Business Law B6150 (Autumn Term 1993) at pp. 8-16 (inclusion of Style Manual).

Query whether students in a tax course, or business law course, grow weary over having to read judicial opinions or rules and regulations -- particularly if the materials are poorly (e.g., turgidly or otherwise poorly) written? Id. at 1-12 ("Perhaps you can sympathize with Sir Ernest Gowers views on plain English, especially with regard to the not so plain wording that you may have encountered in reading legal (an other) materials. The plain wording problem in any event has not escaped the scrutiny of observers in legal, academic, and other circles.B" Footnote B: "See, e.g.,
The End of a Dream: Illiteracy Invades the Middle Class, N.Y. Times, Dec. 7, 1978, col. 1; Letters (to the Editor), The College Illiterates, N.Y. Times, Dec. 21, 1978, at C5, col. 2; Siegel, `Plain English'Results, N.Y. Times April 1, 1979, Sec. 3 Bus. & Fin., at 1 col. 5; Givens, The Plain English Law, 50 N.Y.S.B.J. 479 (1978); Holden, Why Profs Can't Write, N.Y. Times, Feb. 5, 1979, Sec. 4 (Week in Review), at 19, col. 1; Hechinger, About Education: Improvement Sought In Student's Writing, N.Y. Times, March 27, 1979, at C4, col. 3; Deutschman, The Trouble with MBAs, FORTUNE, vol. 124, no. 3, July 29, 1991).").

 

Patricia T. O’Conner re-enforces the wisdom of my including course materials that emphasize the merits of plain language and other qualities of clarity in writing:



To be fair, simple language isn't so simple to use. "Simple English is no one's mother tongue," Jacques Barzun said. "It has to be worked for." And the defenders of clarity, including plenty of plainspoken consultants, are making some progress, however fitful, in the war against jargon, bureaucratese, technobabble, pomposity and gobbledygook.

. . . .

Carol Florman, deputy director of the office of public affairs at the Justice Department, finds some of the writing in her agency simply "frightening." Why? "Not only are we a bureaucracy, but we're a bureaucracy populated by lawyers," she says. "They just don't write in English."
But William Lutz, a Rutgers University English professor who writes about plain language, says his vote for worst writing goes to the Internal Revenue Service. "Lawyers are a piece of cake," he says. "You haven't lived until you've gone one on one with an accountant.").

 

Patricia T. O’Conner, The Way We Live Now: 8-22-99; On Language: Plainspeak, N.Y. Times, Aug. 22, 1999, available athttp://www.nytimes.com/library/magazine/home/19990822mag-onlanguage.html.

See also, e.g.,
Peter Tiersma, The Plain English Movement (last visited Nov. 4, 2012), http://www.languageandlaw.org/PLAINENGLISH.HTM("
The premise behind the plain English movement is that legal documents ought to be plainer--and more comprehensible--to the average person. It's probably fair to say that the modern movement began in the 1970s. But people have objected to the obscurity of lawyer's language for many centuries.").

d. Education -- coursework (1970-2012):

 

In my courses students are encouraged to place a high priority on communication skills -- oral and written. Thus, both written examinations (mid-term and final exam), written problems (at end of each chapter of course materials,each problem requiring a written memorandum to be handed in), and class participation (via primarily Socratic method) emphasized students' development of communication skills. See, e.g., Ronald David Greenberg, Materials on Basic Federal Income Taxation in Business Decisions at vii-viii (4th ed. 1982) (after extolling the various pedagogical qualities of writing a memorandum (e.g., issue recognition, formulating issue in a memorandum), the Preface (at page vii-viii) states finally "Fifth, in writing a memorandum the student may be able to learn to become somewhat more articulate than he or she already is -- not only to write in a manner that is workmanlike, organized, precise, and concise, but also, I hope, to write with grace and goodwill."). The latest edition of Ronald David Greenberg, Materials on Basic Federal Income Taxation in Business Decisions iv-v (7th ed. 1994) continued the message with little change:

I like to use a problem as a stimulus for the student to write a memorandum. I believe that the written memorandum or essay is an excellent exercise for the student. The student, when he or she becomes an executive, will most likely be required to do a fair bit of writing in memorandum form. And from reports in the press and other media in recent years many persons simply can not write basic literate English. I also believe that the memorandum is an excellent pedagogical device for a number of reasons. First, it requires the student to recognize issues, both easily discerned issues and more difficult ones. Second, it also requires the student to formulate answers (as contrasted with merely picking the correct answers in multiple choice and true-false questions). In formulating the answer the student is required to invoke much relevant law, to integrate the relevant facts, and to reach a conclusion (and perhaps to recognize a counter-argument as well in more complicated cases). Third, in writing a memorandum the student may well come to think about certain broader issues such as the social, political, economic, or other implications of various tax rules. Fourth, in writing a memorandum a student is not asked to answer specific definitional questions (such as: define gross income) or to answer specific questions (such as: what are the rights of the taxpayer?) since, I believe, it is more important for business students to learn to recognize issues and leave the resolution of these issues to experts. The student is being trained to recognize issues so that he or she will be able to know when a tax expert should be consulted. Fifth, in writing a memorandum the student may be able to learn to become somewhat more articulate than he or she already is -- not only to write in a manner that is organized, well crafted, precise, and concise, but also, I hope, to write with grace and goodwill.

 

 

See also, e.g., Ronald David Greenberg, Materials on International Business Law & Taxation, Columbia University, Graduate School of Business (Autumn Term, 1994), Volume I, Chapter 1, at III. Communication Skills (pp. 57-83) (citing, e.g., Marvin H. Swift, Clear Writing Means Clear Thinking Means..., Harvard Business Review 59, vol. 51, no.1 (Jan.-Feb 1973), available athttp://hbr.org/1973/01/clear-writing-means-clear-thinking-means/ar (noting “a constant management challenge of major importance – the clear and accurate expression of a well-focused message” requires that a writer “ must do plain hard work (editing and rewriting) to lift his every communication to the standard his sound thinking has set.”), Deutschman, The Trouble with MBAs, FORTUNE, vol. 124, no. 3, July 29, 1991 (“Corporate recruiters complain that MBAs lack, creativity, people skills, aptitude for teamwork, and the ability to speak and write with clarity and conciseness – all hallmarks of a good manager.”).

 

Columbia University (1970-1995): my courses required written essay exams only (except in several accounting courses that I taught). Class was conducted with a modified Socratic method (i.e., with an occasional lecture when needed).

Stanford University (1978): my courses required written essay exams only. Class was conducted with a modified Socratic method (i.e., with an occasional lecture when needed).

Harvard University (1981): my courses required written essay exams only. Class was conducted with a modified Socratic method (i.e., with an occasional lecture when needed).

e. Letter to William Safire (1984):

The letter itself evidences my longstanding interest. Its having been written to Mr. Safire approximately 40 years ago, and its being published in 1984, clearly indicate a longstanding interest of mine in English usage going back decades. This interest continues today for many reasons. One of the most important is to emphasize the importance of communication skills in education and other contexts. I try to do so when I can in appropriate media such as this website. I also may try to do so by publishing a work on this subject in a scholarly journals (e.g., Chronicle of Higher Education and law reviews/journals). See, e.g., infra, III.C. Importance of Verbal Skills -- Barzun's book (chaos): prescriptivism v. descriptivism.   


f. Law journals/reviews (1989-2012): 

In the International Practicum (Spring 1990 issue), as Editor in Chief, my Editor’s Note below emphasizes, among other points, substance and style:

 

 

 

The compound term "Editor-in-Chief" should have been written "Editor in Chief" (without hyphens) as a noun (title), whereas the term as an adjective would have been written "Editor-in-Chief Ronald David Greenberg" with hyphens. See, e.g., The Chicago Manual of Style ¶¶ 5.6, 5.805.92, 5.93, 5.102, 7.86 (15th ed. 2003).

At the New York International Law Review (Summer 1991 issue), as an editor in chief in the embryonic stages of the Review, I made establishing standards for authors a high priority.  See "General Information" (3rd paragraph) for authors below:

 




 

 











As a member of the Law Review's Advisory Board (1991- ) I have continued my interest in furthering the importance of communication skills.



g. Style Manual (1990-1995): 

I crafted in the early 1990's the Style Manual as a handout to students in my courses to encourage them to read authorities on English usage. See infra, at I.D. Style Manual.



h. Website (2010-2012): 

 

This website devotes substantial space to the issue of the importance of communication skills.  See, e.g., "Gallery: Verbal skills" on Navigation Bar.  See also "Gallery: Safire letter" on Navigation Bar.

The phrase "importance of verbal skills" perhaps brings to mind the partial title of the play "The Importance of Being Earnest" by Oscar Wilde, both phrases emphasizing the importance of something. The full title of the play is "The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People" -- a farce/satire/comedy portraying serious (trivial?) treatment of a trivial (serious?) subject. In contrast, "The importance of verbal skills" relates to a serious treatment of a serious subject.

This importance of business law and communication skills generally is confirmed by search results (see below). The following is an excerpt of an article (draft) on these subjects:

 

importance.business.law.2.20.2011

 

 

 

 

For the importance of business law,  click here and here (Bing™ results). For the importance of communication/verbal skills, click here (Google™ results and here and here (Bing™ results).

4. In harmony with Mr. Safire's educational goals:    I Stand Corrected: More on Language from William Safire itself emphasizes its educational and humorous content. For example (at book jacket (front flap)), it reminds readers that “Safire continues his dramatic dialogue with the ’Lexicographic Irregulars,’ those readers and letter-writers who educate, revile, or applaud his forays into grammar and usage (emphasis added).”

Similarly (at book jacket (front-back flap)): “His conclusions – and his readers’ fierce reactions to them – create the charm and tension of this book. As always, Safire is * * * enlightening, slipping in some solid scholarship behind a veil of wit (emphasis added).”

In the Introduction to his book Mr. Safire refers to the "struggle" between the prescriptivists and the descriptivists (at vii-viii), and he emphasizes that "If you care about the language you use andare moved to influence others to write or speak more clearly or colorfully, you are eligible to join either side[the presciptivists or the descriptivists]. Welcome; we can use a few more players" (at ix). (Emphases added).   See, e.g., James Kelly, You Say Prescriptive, I Say Proper, Wall Street J., Oct. 6-7, 2012, at C10 ( (reviewing David Skinner, The Story of Ain't (2012), Kelly reports that The Story of Ain'texplores the controversy between the precriptivists and the descriptivists). See also, infra, at III.C. Importance of communication skills -- Barzun's book (chaos): prescriptivism v. descriptivism. See also "posts" on Navigation Bar.

Bryan Garner has compiled a chronological list of books on usage dating back to 1792. See Bryan A. Garner, Garner's Modern American Usage 865-875 (2003) (Garner includes in Appendix B "A Timeline of Books on Usage" that provides "a chronological list of more than 350 books making up the corpus of literature on English usage" from 1762 to 2003 (current for this edition).). Included in the Timeline list is I Stand Corrected: More on Language from William Safire (1984).
Also included in the Timeline list are Mr. Safire’s books On Language (1981), What's the Good Word? (1982), Take My Word for It (1986), Fumblerules: A Lighthearted Guide to Grammar and Good Usage (1990), Coming to Terms (1991), Quoth the Maven (1993), In Love with Norma Loquendi (1994), and Watching My Language (1997).

 

 

 

5. Publicize importance of communication/verbal skills: Mr. Safire's welcoming "a few more players" is a worthwhile goal whether they join the presciptivists or the descriptivists in their "struggle" (I Stand Corrected, Introduction at vii-ix). An important purpose in raising this issue here is to encourage persons that perhaps are not very interested in English usage to become more interested -- to encourage readership of literature in this genre.

But the readership of this website is limited. One way to increase awareness of this issue would be my, and other's, publishing articles on this subject (e.g., in a journal such as Chronicle of Higher Education, and perhaps in a good law review/journal or business school journal, or both, that has a fairly wide distribution, even though the distribution numbers for law reviews have declined markedly in recent years).

Accordingly, Safire (on language), Fowler, Follett, Strunk & White, Gowers, and various other authorities on language should benefit from this publicity. That is to say, a consequence of this publicity should be a heightened impetus among educators and administrators to put greater emphasis on the inclusion of courses on communication skills in the curriculum of business schools, law schools, and other educational institutions. Click here for post, Oct. 19, 2012 (available at
http://authorjennwalker.com2012/ 06/25/grammar-tip-punctuating-compound-sentences-vs-compound-predicates)) to Jennie Walker site (http://author jennwalker.com)) on Navigation Bar. See also“posts” on the Navigation Bar.

The importance verbal of skills cannot be over emphasized (see search results below), andtheseskills in turn depend in large part on familiarity with conventions. As Professor Barzun has wisely and succinctly stated in Jacques Barzun On Writing, Editing, and Publishing: Essays Explicative and Hortatory (at 25) that "meaning implies convention, and the discovery that meanings change does not alter the fact that when convention is broken, misunderstanding and chaos are close at hand (emphasis added)."   See infra at III.C. Importance of communication skills -- Barzun's book (chaos): prescriptivism v. descriptivism.

The importance of communication skills is confirmed by search results. For the importance of communication/verbal skills: click here or
here (Googleresults) and here (Bing results).

 

Perhaps fitting is that the phrase "The importance of verbal skills" may bring to mind the play "The Importance of Being Earnest," by Oscar Wilde, both phrases emphasizing the importance of something. The full title of the play is "The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People" is a farce/satire/comedy portraying serious (trivial?) treatment of a trivial (serious?) subject. In contrast, "The importance of verbal skills" relates to a serious treatment of a serious subject.

 

C. Letter to W. Safire in I Stand Corrected (excerpt):


safire_book_1



safire_book_2


Copyright © 1984 by William Safire. The above excerpt is published here as fair use -- see Commentary 2 and note below. Permission to publish the excerpt here will be sought if the identity of the current copyright owner is determined or if such owner so requests.*

D. Style Manual:


safire.style.man.1



safire.style.man.2


Copyright © Ronald David Greenberg 1991-1994 (circa), 2012. Copyright © N.Y. Times 1981. The above excerpt was privately distributed at Columbia University. See Commentary 2 and note below.

The excerpt in the Style Manual contains the "Sincerely (not otherwise) yours" valediction in brackets. Query which version of the letter is more humorous?

The version of the letter in the Style Manual was privately distributed to students in my classes at Columbia University circa 1990-1994. For more information on the Style Manual, including a copy of the Cover Page, click at "style manual on verbal skills" in Gallery 7 on Navigation Bar. Cf. excerpt of version of letter in I Stand Corrected (see excerpt below).

 

The Style Manual contains excerpts from W. Strunk andE.B White, The Elements of Style (3rd ed. 1979), H. W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (2d ed.1965), Wilson Follett, Modern American Usage(1966), and Wiliam Safire, I Stand Corrected: More On Language from William Safire (1984). These authorities cover alphabetically some commonly used words and problem expressions, such as: absent, actually, address, adverb placement, amount, anymore, as to, basically, basis, compound adjectives, comprise, dialogue, different, different than, disparate, err, exact same, feel badly, fewer, flammable, given, grow, hopefully, incidentally, inflammable, in terms of, just, listen, look, masterful, masterly, only, on the other hand, otherwise, process, really, reticent, scary, shameful, situation, so, surrogate, there, trigger, unique, valuable, verbal, verbs as nouns, well, and you know. For more recent editions, see Style Manual in "gallery 7: commentary" on Navigation Bar.

See also, e.g.
,
Bryan A. Garner, Garner's Modern American Usage (3d ed. 2009); click here for information on the 3rd edition. For another useful book, seeBill Bryson, Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors (First Anchor Books Edition (May 2009)); click here for other books by Mr. Bryson and here for more information on this author. See also Robert Burchfield the English language (1986), click here for recent edition) [In the bibliography to 1986 edition he states that "For points of usage H.W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (2d ed., revised by Sir Ernest Gowers, 1965) is still supreme"]. The word "really" has the distinction of an article written suggesting that it is used too much. Neil Genzlinger, The ‘R’ Word: Really, Really Overused (Writers, Please Resist), N.Y. Times, Oct. 2, 2012, at C1 (focuses primarily on of its use on TV). Perhaps "actually" is used even more, particularly in oral communication.

Mr. Safire has kind words for Garner's, A Dictionary of Modern American Usage.
See, e.g., William Safire, On Language; Gifts of Gab for '99, Dec. 13, 1998, available at http://www.nytimes.com/ 1998/12/13/magazine/on-language-gifts-of-gab-for-99.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm or athttp://www.ny times.com/1998/12/13/magazine/on-language-gifts-of-gab-for-99.html?scp=1&sq=Bryan+A.+Garner &st=nyt (“A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, by Bryan A. Garner, is an excellent work to complement your hairsplitting heir's copies of Robert Burchfield's third edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage and the loosey-goosey but most informative Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage.”). See also, e.g., Bryan A. Garner, Garner's Modern American Usage(2d ed. 2003) (appearing on the book jacket (top front): “Excellent” – William Safire, The New York Times.)

Other authorities have commented on the usage of many of these words. See, e.g., Gertrude Block, Effective Legal Writing For Students and Lawyers (4th ed. 1992; click here for recent edition) [e.g., address, lend]; Morton S. Freeman, The Grammatical Lawyer(1979) [e.g., amount, as to, comprise, different than, fewer, hopefully, in terms of, oral/verbal/written, reticent]; Lynn B. Squires and Majorie Dick Rombauer, Legal Writing in a nutshell (1982, click here for recent edition) [e.g., comprise, in terms of, only/often]. See also, e.g., Webster's Dictionary of English Usage(E. Ward Gilman, Editor (1989); click here for recent edition) [e.g., actual, actually, in terms of, only, situation, unique]; The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage(Allan M. Siegal (Asst. Mng. ed.) and William G. Connolly (Senior ed.) 1999; click here for recent edition) [e.g., comprise, hopefully, only, unique]; Eric Partridge, Usage and Abusage (1973, reprinted 1985; click here for recent edition/reprint) [e.g., actual, actually, only, otherwise, verbal].

 

 

II. Letter intrinsically educational in content and purpose

A. Educational purpose of my letter: The purpose of my letter was intrinsically educational. It now provides an opportunity to strengthen the argument for the importance of communication skills in education as the panoply of desirable components of any enlightened curriculum in any educational institution.

The letter's use in the Style Manual, and in I Stand Corrected, has been educational (see Galleries 5, 7, and 10 on Navigation Bar). This concern has been a longstanding one for me. See also, e.g., "Integral part of practice--publication of scholarly practical writings" at "Home" on Navigation Bar (emphasizing that "An integral part of the practice is dedicated to the publication of scholarly writings on the practical aspects of business law and tax."). Cf., e.g., WORLDLawDirect.com, Inc., Chief Justice Roberts on Obama, Justice Stevens, Law Reviews, More, Wall Street Journal Law Blog (Apr. 7, 2010 8:30 PM) available by
clicking here.

An integral part of my practice is to publish scholarly informative works on practical aspects of business law and tax. Another important part of my practice is to emphasize the educational aspect of the practice in which I stress in my writings the importance of communication skills for lawyers, business executives, and others.

 

See, e.g., "Gallery: verbal skills" on Navigation Bar (emphasis on students' evidencing communication skills (written and oral) on classwork, homework, and examinations.).  See also "curriculum vitae"  on Navigation Bar at "Teaching/Examination Practices" (requiring that students evidence communication skills (written and oral) on classwork, homework, and examinations).

 

 

B. Educational and scholarly content in Mr. Safire’s book:  Leading scholars are included in Mr. Safire's book, either as an authority cited by Mr. Safire or as letter-writers. The index to Mr. Safire'sbook lists alphabetically the word or usage, or both, in issue, along with other entries such as authorities on English usage. The index thus serves as an excellent source for research on a wide array of issues on language. Leading dictionaries are listed. The index also lists the letter-writers alphabetically. It is a rich resource of scholarship -- and humor.

III. Educational issues

A. Grammatical

1. In particular:

a. On the use of "otherwise" as an adjective or as a noun:

The New Fowler's Modern English Usage 560 (editor R.W. Burchfield 3rd ed.1996) reports that "the language has moved on" and the use of "otherwise" Fowler condemned "is now in standard use." Fowler would suggest rewriting, e.g., "large tracts of the country, agricultural an otherwise" as "some agricultural and some not." Wilson Follet, Modern American Usage: A Guide218 (revised by Erik Wensberg1998) likewise reports that "usage in the twentieth century more and more often called on otherwise to act as an adjective." In Fowler's view, "for some reason,selfish or otherwise" would become "selfish or other," but "both the Oxford and several American dictionaries give otherwise as adverb, adjective, and noun." Id.

 

Many instances of the use of "otherwise" as a noun can be found in legal writings. For example, Section 1 of the Sherman Act (1890) on antitrust (competition law) states that:

"Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal. (emphasis added)".

Here "otherwise" modifies a noun--"form" or "combination"-- and in effect reads "or otherwise form" or "or otherwise trust". In keeping with the suggestions of Fowler, e.g., it would read "other form" or "different form" (i.e., " *** combination in the form of a trust or other form ***"). See  "publications" (at "Other") on Navigation Bar.See also"curriculum vitae" (at "Teaching/Examination Practices") on Navigation Bar.

b. Use of a dummy subject "It" to begin 2nd ¶ of letter:

The beginning of the second paragraph of my letter to Mr. Safire with "It seems to me that the word 'otherwise' should be replaced by . . ." would have been improved by my rephrasing it instead as "Your use of the word 'otherwise' seems to me should be replaced by . . . ." That change would have avoided the use of a dummy subject, which would have made that sentence stronger. Click here for more information on the dummy subject.

2. In general: Controversy between prescriptivists an descriptivists -- Barzun’s letter

First a little background on the controversy between prescriptivists an descriptivists may be instructive.
The presciptivist v. descriptivist controversy is captured, e.g., in Ronald A. Wells, Dictionaries and the Authoritarian Tradition: A Study in English Usage 79-82 (1973) (noting that the “remaining criticism of the Third Edition may be traced to just three reviews” where “none was written by an expert on dictionaries: two are by journalists, the third by a scholar who is not a lexicographer” referring to Follett, Macdonald, and Barzun (at 79-81), quoting, e.g., Barzun’s famous denunciation of Webster’s Thirdas “the longest pamphlet ever put together by a party” [Ed., see Jacques Barzun, in the scholar cornered: What Is A Dictionary?, 32 The Anerican Scholar 176, 176 (1963)], and including a rebuttal that “Subsequent scholarly reviews, answering Follett, Macdonald, and Barzun, made two major points. First, the natural process of linguistic change was re-affirmed, and the equation of change with corruption repudiated. Second, the authoritarian notion of the function of a dictionary was unequivocally rejected.” (at 82-83) (emphasis added).) See also, infra, at III.C. Importance of communication skills -- Barzun's book (chaos): prescriptivism v. descriptivism.

Professor Jacques Barzun, a preeminent educator, professor, and author, in his letter to Bill Safire (see above excerpt (at page 134 of I Stand Corrected)) cites Fowler and Follett, two of the authorities, and hearty precriptivists, that I cite in my letter to Mr. Safire. For more on Professor Barzun, click here. See also, e.g., Arthur Krystal, Age of Reason, In his hundred years, Jacques Barzun has learned a thing or two, New Yorker, Oct. 22, 2007, available by clicking here. Many other educators and others were counted among the letter-writers. And the letters submitted to Mr. Safire were incisive and witty, again strengthening the scholarly complexion of the book. Few cited Fowler, Follett, or othe similar authorities. See also, infra, at III.C. Importance of verbal skills -- Barzun's book: prescriptists v. descriptivists.

Professor Barzun's book, Jacques Barzun On Writing, Editing, and Publishing: Essays Explicative and Hortatory(1971), cites (at 21) Sir Ernest Gowers, The Complete Plain Words. Gowers covers "otherwise" and cites Fowler (at 226-227 (1954). And Morris Phillipson, Director, The University of Chicago Press, writes in the Foreword to Professor Barzun's book (at vii-viii) that those "who may know Fowler'sDictionary of Modern English Usage, Strunk and White's Elements of Style, Gowers'Complete Plain Words, Follett'sModern American Usage -- may now rejoice in having available one of the wittiest of wise men, one of the best writers who ever set himself to (as it looks only at the outset) the unrewarding task of writing about writing (emphasis added)."

My letter to Mr. Safire omitted reference to Strunk and White, The Elements of Style. It is an excellent work on usage, composition, form, commonly misused words, and style, but it did not appear to include an entry for "otherwise" in its 1962 or 1972 paperback editions (Macmillan), nor in its 2000 paperback edition (Allyn & Bacon), nor in its 2005 hard cover edition (Penguin).

Interestingly, subsequent editions of the Gowers’ book continue to include an entry on "otherwise" but in the entry for "otherwise" references to Fowler (at 228-229 (revised by Sir Bruce Fraser, 2nd ed. 1973)); at 249-250 (revised by S. Greenbaum & J. Whitcut(U.S. edition 1988)) are omitted. They replace, e.g., "Fowler condemns both these [uses of otherwise] as ungrammatical" with "All these uses can be condemned as ungrammatical."

Gowers in the first edition in discussing (at 227) the phrase, e.g., "to report on the success or otherwise of the new organization of schools" asks "what does otherwise stand for? Why failure, of course. And failure is a noun. Therefore otherwise is a pronoun." Gowers then concedes that he at first agreed with Fowler "that otherwise so used was not a pronoun but a blunder." But Gowers recants his agreement with Fowler that “otherwise” so used is a blunder when he considered "who used it so -- schoolmasters and school inspectors, and ambassadors, and statesmen and judges on the bench -- I could not accept Fowler's views. For I would rather wrong the dead -- dead languages that is -- and wrong myself and you, than I would wrong such honorable men. There is no help for it. Otherwise is a pronoun."

I hope that my letter to Mr. Safire shows the same generosity of spirit that Gowers displays in his refusal to call "otherwise so used" a blunder. The valediction, along with the last sentence, of my letter to Mr. Safire is my attempt to end a letter critical of Mr. Safire’s use of “otherwise” on a lighter note -- with a wry wit -- so to enhance, I hope, the educational merit of my letter, without necessarily taking sides in the controversy between presciptivists an descriptivists. As is illustrated in various published materials on this controversy, the opposite sides seldom seem to show little of such spitit. See infra, at III.C. Importance of communication skills -- Barzun's book (chaos): prescriptivism v. descriptivism. Cf., e.g., Bryan A. Garner, Garner's Modern American Usage(2003) (the terms "descriptivist" or "presciptivist" are not included as entries in this book. But he discloses that he is a "descriptive prescriber" (in his "Introductory Essay: Making Peace in the Language Wars" (at xxxix)).

The controversy is captured, e.g., in Ronald A. Wells, Dictionaries and the Authoritarian Tradition: A Study in English Usage 79-82 (1973) (noting that the “remaining criticism of the Third Edition may be traced to just three reviews” where “none was written by an expert on dictionaries: two are by journalists, the third by a scholar who is not a lexicographer” referring to Follett, Macdonald, and Barzun (at 79-81), quoting, e.g., Barzun’sfamous denunciation of Webster’s Third (as “the longest pamphlet ever put together by a party”) [Ed. see Jacques Barzun, in the scholar cornered: What Is A Dictionary?, 32 The Anerican Scholar 176, 176 (1963)], and including a rebuttal “Subsequent scholarly reviews, answering Follett, Macdonald, and Barzun, made two major points. First, the natural process of linguistic change was re-affirmed, and the equation of change with corruption repudiated. Second, the authoritarian notion of the function of a dictionary was unequivocally rejected.” (at 82-83) (emphasis added).).

A middle course should be able to be charted. See, e.g., Bryan A. Garner, Garner's Modern American Usage xxxi-xlv (2003) (in his "Introductory Essay: Making Peace in the Language Wars" of the book, he notes that e.g., "Sociologists don't look askance at ethicists who aim to guide human behavior" and concludes that "Those who study language could learn something from these other fields -- something about balance, civility, and peaceful coexistence.").

 

 

B. Humor in communication settings

 

 

The humorous ending/valediction in my letter to Mr. Safire was intended to be the heightened humorous note on which the letter ended. If the last sentence of the letter was the background for a humorous ending, the ending/valediction "Sincerely (not otherwise) yours" was the punch line. It was intended as an important part of the letter from an educational point of view.

My practice in class has been to try to combine substance with a bit of humor as a way to improve the effectiveness of the presentation of the materials (particularly, e.g, in taxation courses). The valediction, though witty, was intended to be a modest attempt at humor in its briefest form. Humor can provide comic relief in what some students might find to be a tedious tax course, which eases the pain of the tedium and thus facilitates learning.

Humor frequently is used in educational contexts. I have used it as an important part of my teaching; so have others as part of their teachings or presentations. See, e.g., "Gallery: Commnications"  at  Education: on Harvard University tax class, 1981 and at Other contexts: on  Sports re basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and on Military re General Martin Dempsey.

 

The expression “brevity is the soul of wit” was uttered in Hamlet by Polonius, who was long-winded and not witty, but in the theater provided comic relief in this Shakespearean tragedy. See, e.g., George Lyman Kitteredge, The Complete Works of Shakespeare 1160 (1936) (Act II, Scene II, line 90). See also, e.g., Shmoop: We Speak Student, available athttp://www.shmoop.com/hamlet/polonius.html (“Polonius can be a source of comic relief to a weighty play.”); Carol Stockdale, Hamlet, Meredith College: Shake-Scenes (2007), http://www.meredith.edu/english/walton/hamlet/filmolivierstockdale.htm (“In a depressing play like Hamlet, there should be some comic relief.”); David A. King, The Discursive Function of Characters: Hamlet, Scribd Inc. (2012) http://www.scribd.com/doc/49822115/Discursive-function-of-Characters-in-Hamlet (“Polonius fulfills two functions: 1. Comic relief (a bit of sport for the 'groundlings'); 2. To highlight the deviousness associated with the gaining of power illegitimately.”); Jenna Olson, The Bard’s Blog (EngL 3007), Polonius (Nov. 6, 2006 2:59 PM), http://blog.lib.umn.edu/muel0274/bard/2006/11/polonius.html#comment-240251 (“The comic relief of Polonius lies in his irony. For example, he says ‘brevity is the soul of wit,’ but is obviously the most long-winded (and unwitty) character.”); Michael Pennington, Hamlet: A User's Guide161 (1996) (“Polonius’s effect perhaps became a purely theatrical one, as comic relief”); Robert J. Cardullo, The Delay of Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, http://rd.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11061-011-9276-y (“Polonius may provide us with‘comic relief’ in Hamlet, but it is not of the gratuitous kind.)

If brevity is the soul of wit, is wit the essence of humor? And is humor the spice that increases a student’s attention span and thus improve learning?

 

Thus, some humor at times can be a useful tactic in improving the effectiveness of a presentation in different contexts. Humor -- whether in the classroom, in the theater, reaching back even to humor or comedy as analyzed by Aristotle, or as here, in the closing of a letter -- has been a time-proven method of making the message more effective. See, e.g., Marvin A. Carlson, Theories of the Theatre: A Historical and Critical Survey from the Greeks to the Present15 (1993) (“Western theatrical theory essentially begins with Aristotle.”); Stefan Stenudd, Aristotle's Poetics: The Drama Theory and Influence of the Poetics (2006) http://www.stenudd.com/aristotle/aristotle-poetics.htm (Aristotle’s Poetics established the standard.); Aristotle and Dramatic Literature, http://www.stjohns-chs.org/english/fate_tragedy/aristotlepoetics.html (Aristotle’s Poetics is “the standard against which the success or failure of drama written in every age has been measured.”).

In teaching primarily business taxation and business law, an occasional foray into humor was one of the ways I kept the students awake. William Safire's book is entertaining because of the humor and wit provided by Mr. Safire himself and many of the letter-writers. The valediction in the Style Manual of "Sincerely (not otherwise) yours" likewise added a bit more humor to the letter. See supra, at
II.B.4.  In harmony with Mr. Safire's educational goals.

Classes on academic/technical subjects, say, on tax and business law, or perhaps a class on any subject, at any level (kindergarten through graduate school), probably cannot come close to competing with, say, a play such as Cyrano de Bergerac, with its wit and humor and other attributes. Still, sometimes whatever wit and humor that is mustered in class can be an aid to learning. 
Therefore, humor may at times serve as a catalyst to effective learning and become an essential element in education. See, e.g., Winnie McCroy, Cyrano de Bergerac, EDGE, Oct. 22, 2012, http://www.edgeboston.com/entertainment/theatre/theatre_reviews/137256/cyrano_de_bergerac(“ ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ offers something for everyone: witty repartee, exciting sword fights and cannon blasts, political intrigue, flowery poetry, comedic scenes and a romantic love for the ages.”). See, e.g.,Said Shiyab, Pedagogical Effect of Humor on Teaching, United Arab Emirates University, Jan 1, 2009, http://www.academia.edu/698395/Pedagogical_Effect_of_Humor_on_Teaching (“Humor is a social phenomenon and a form of communication that should not be disregarded in any learning or teaching environment. It plays a fundamental role in creating harmony and cohesion between students and teachers. The significant role humor plays stems from the fact that humor is conducive to the learning process and intercultural awareness. It helps break the monotony and keeps students tuned in to their teachers.”); Megan Shearin, Faculty Lecture Series: Morreall examines humor, Oct. 15, 2012, http://www.wm.edu/news/stories/2012/faculty-lecture-series-morreall-examines-humor-123.php (“In the classroom, Morreall confessed to using humor as a way to help students relax. . . . It allows them to just learn.”); Jane Roberts, Memphis teacher named state Teacher of the Year; first in 29 years, Commercial Appeal (Posted Oct. 23, 2012 at 8:40 PM), http://www.commercialappeal.com/privacy (“For her wit, creativity and outright zeal in the classroom, she was named Tennessee's Teacher of the Year late Tuesday.”); Melissa Wanzer, Chapter 10 Use of Humor in Classroom, 116-126, http://www.uab.edu/Communicationstudies/richmond_files/Richmond%20Humor%20in%20Classroom.pdf; Bonjour, Rosalia H., The Essence of Good Teaching – Humor, Language in India, Vol. 11 Issue 12, at 152 (Dec. 2011), http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/70566197/essence-good-teaching-humor (“Psychologists state that the attention span of students is for a mere 20 minutes. Therefore it is a challenge to the teacher to hold the attention of the students for 50 minutes or more! Humor in the class room is like spice in the food - very necessary and important to add flavor and create interest.”); eHow Contributor, How to Use Humor in Teaching (2012) http://www.ehow.com/how_4517225_use-humor-teaching.html; Robert F Bruner, Transforming Thought: The Role of Humor in Teaching (January 2002) , available athttp://ssrn.com/abstract=298761; Clifton L. Hall, Humor in teaching, Peabody Journal of Education, at 3-5, Volume 47, Issue 1, 1969 (Hall, an educator at University of Tennessee, quotes Professor Leacock of McGill University “Humor may be defined as the kindly contemplation of the incongruities of life, and the artistic express thereof;” Hall concludes that “Few teachers have Leacock’s genius for humor, yet his brief definition carries a lesson that all teachers can profitably ponder.”), available athttp://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01619566909537665#preview. For information on Professor Leacock‘s book, see, e.g., http://www.amazon.com/Humor-Humanity-Stephen-Leacock/dp/B000QUAXRY. For more information on Clifton Hall, see, e.g., http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/h/Hall,Clifton_L.html; Avner Ziv, Teaching and Learning with Humor: Experiment and Replication, Journal of Experimental Education, Vol. 57, No. 1 Fall 1988, available at, e.g., http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/20151750?uid=3739832&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101203162043 (“Two experiments concerning humor in higher education are presented. . . .Explanations for the ways in which humor in teaching can influence student learning are given.”); Kenneth Jones, A Nose for Poetry: Cyrano de Bergerac, With Douglas Hodge, Clémence Poésy, Patrick Page, Opens on Broadway, Oct. 11 2012, http://www.playbill.com/news/article/170971-A-Nose-for-Poetry-Cyrano-de-Bergerac-With-Douglas-Hodge-Clmence-Posy-Patrick-Page-Opens-on-Broadway/pg2 (“Here's how Roundabout bills the 1897 French classic: ‘An enduring masterwork with some of the wittiest lines ever written for the stage, Cyrano de Bergerac is a clever and touching story about the power of love, the art of wordplay and the joy of finding what you've always wanted right under your nose.’ ”)

But see, e.g., Dominic Cheetham, Written Humour and Humour Theory, Academia.edu (2012),
http://sophia.academia.edu/DominicCheetham/Papers/1110821/Written_Humour_and_Humour_Theory (“Aristotle, in his poetics states clearly that comedy is a lesser art than tragedy, and this perception of comedy, or humour, as being intrinsically lacking in value, persists strongly to the present day.”). See also, e.g., The Basic Works of Aristotle: Poetics 1459 ((translated by Ingram Bywater; editor, Richard McKeon (revised ed. 1941)) ((5.1449a31 (viz., chap. 5, page 1449, column a, line 31 (Berlin ed.)) ("As for Comedy, it is (as has been observed (at 1448a18-20)) an imitation of men worse than the average: worse, however, not as regards any and every sort of fault, but only as regards one particular kind, Ridiculous, which is a species of the Ugly. The Ridiculous may be defined as a mistake or deformity not productive of pain or harm to others; the mask, for instance, that excites laughter, is something ugly and distorted without causing pain (emphasis added)."); The Rhetoric and Poetics of Aristotle 229 (Modern Library 1954) (translated by Ingram Bywater) (at 5.1449a31).

Without the "Sincerely (not otherwise) yours" valediction the letter remains informative and educational. With the ending, it is a different letter, with possible comic relief and a much stronger educational impact. The last sentence of the letter --

"I hope that with respect to the word "otherwise" you will now ask yourself how your column could be written otherwise (differently), otherwise (or else) I may be forced, sensibly or otherwise (without good sense), to write to you again."

-- was a lead-in to the valediction "Sincerely (not otherwise) yours" and an integral part of and in tandem with the last sentence. The last sentence and valediction attempt a light-hearted humorous finish to a letter that is, after all, critical of Mr. Safire, a distinguished and famous word maven.

 

 

C. Importance of communication skills -- Barzun's book (chaos); prescriptivism v. descriptivism.

Professor Barzun in his book, Jacques Barzun On Writing, Editing, and Publishing: Essays Explicative and Hortatory (1971), covers in Chapter 2 "English As She's Not Taught" what he calls, e.g., "bad English" (at 24). He emphasizes (at 25) that

"meaning implies convention, and the discovery that meanings change does not alter the fact that when convention is broken, misunderstanding and chaos are close at hand (emphasis added)."

 

 

Professor Barzun's views on the importance of "meaning implies convention" are prophetic, but controversial. See, e.g., James Kelly, You Say Prescriptive, I Say Proper, Wall Street J., Oct. 6-7, 2012, at C10 (reviewing David Skinner, The Story of Ain't (2012). Kelly reports that Skinner in the The Story of Ain't sets out to explore "what may be the be the single greatest language controversy in American history"-- the controversy between the precriptivists and the descriptivists -- and that Skinner makes clear the third edition of Webster's New International Dictionary was created as "a dictionary for the way we do speak, not for the way we should." Kelly notes that the Webster's Third was roundly attacked, e.g., in the Houston press, the Atlantic, the N.Y. Times, and by the critic Dwight Macdonald "in the most famous attack of them all" in the New Yorker. Kelly emphasizes Macdonald's major complaint that Webster's Third "tried to reflect language as it is spoken but that it failed miserably at giving the reader any sense whatsoever of what usage he might prefer." Professor Barzun said that the Webster's Third New International Dictionary is "undoubtedly the longest political panphlet ever put together by a party. Jacques Barzun, in the scholar cornered: What Is A Dictionary?, 32 The Anerican Scholar 176, 176 (1963).

See also, Janet Maslin, A War Of Words, Focused on One, N.Y. Times, Oct. 25, 2012, at C1 ("Linguists fought over the dictionary's methodology and asked whether the recording or the mandating of English usage was its proper role."). Id. ("In 2008 plans for a Fourth unabridged Webster’s were announced" with the work begun and with "tempests in teacups" to be expected when the work is published.).

In Dwight Macdonald, Books: The String Unturned, New Yorker, Mar. 10, 1962, at 130-160, available at
http:///archives.newyorker.com/?i=1962-03-10#folio=130. Macdonald laments that Philip Gove, editor of the Webster's Third, was sympathetic to a trend or method that is sometimes called Structural Linguistics or Modern Linguistic Science, which according to Gove its elements are “1. Language changes constantly. 2. Change is normal. 3. Spoken language is the language. 4. Correctness rests upon usage, 5. All usage is relative.” Id. at 130. Macdonald laments further that this trend “is debasing our language by rendering it less precise and thus less effective as literature and less efficient as communication.” Id. Macdonald concludes that the "objection is not recording the facts of actual usage. It is failing to give information that would enable the reader to decide which usage he wants to adopt.” Id. at 150.

Misunderstanding or ambiguity can also occur, without even changing the meaning of a word, by the mere misplacement of the word in a statement. For example, take the word "only" -- commonly misplaced in a sentence. The sentence "He only goes to yoga class on Thursday" means that "he only 'goes' but does not return on Thursday. But "He goes only to yoga class on Thursday" means yoga is the sole class he attends on Thursday. And "He goes to yoga class only on Thursday" means that he attends yoga class no other day but Thursday, but may attend other classes on Thursday. Click here or here, e.g., for more on the use of "only."

Query whether ambiguity in the use of "only" or other words whose meaning has changed or that has multiple meanings can have an impact on, e.g., computer programming or military instructions/orders? See, e.g., Joe Sharkey, English Skills a Concern As Global Aviation Grows, N.Y.Times, May 22, 2012, at B8 (challenge in aviation communication is to keep it "terse and unambiguous."). For words that have different meanings, click here,
here, here, here, or here (GoogleTM) or here (BingTM). For an example of a word that can function either as a verb or as a noun with very different meanings, consider the book by Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves (2003) ("So, punctuation really does matter, even if it is only occasionally a matter of life and death" referring to a story on back book jacket of a panda that goes to a cafe, eats, shoots a gun, begins to leave, and a confused waiter looks up the entry for panda in a badly punctuated wildlife book and finds "Panda. Large . . . bear-like mammal . . . native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.").

The “descriptivists” probably would be well-advised to be at least knowledgeable of the main conventions of usage, even if they did not adhere to them. Query whether a descriptivist is obliged to follow convention to avoid dangerous ambiguity? See, e.g., Shawna Blumenschein's portfolio website, h
ttp://sblumenschein.weebly.com/usage.html("Likewise, signage – on the road, around construction sites, on machinery, et cetera – should clearly communicate if there’s danger, hazards, or road closures. Technical documents, instructions, and safety information need to follow the rules. When comprehension is a matter of life and death, writing must fall back on standard written English. It is the only form of language that we can assume all potential readers possess. It is the only universal (at least within an English-speaking Westernized context) frame of reference. But a sign at the grocery store that proclaims '8 Items or Less?' That’s not vital. The error does not interfere with comprehension; it does not mislead or endanger people.").

Cf.
Dan Berrett, Habits of Mind: Lessons for the Long Term, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 12, 2012, Vol. LIX, No. 7, at A1 (emphasis added) (“Learning a discipline is never just about knowledge-stuffing” according to Catherine H. Beyer, at University of Washington. “It’s also about teaching the conventions and practices of writing, thinking, and other skills that are specific to the discipline (emphasis added).” ).

Professor Barzun's warning of "when convention is broken, misunderstanding and chaos is close at hand" is well taken. The test cannot be that "anything goes" or chaos will surely follow. Cf. Cole Porter, Anything Goes Lyrics, http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/Shows-Events/Past-Shows/Anything-Goes.aspx (”Good authors too who once knew better words, Now only use four letter words, Writing prose, Anything Goes” (emphasis added).); P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975), http://wodehouse.thefreelibrary.com (noting that Wodehouse with Guy Bolton wrote several popular Broadway musicals, including, e.g., Anything Goes (1934)); Howard Lindsay, William Gaxton, Russel Crouse, Victor Moore, Benay Venuta, Irene Delroy, Guy Bolton, Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, Vinton Freedley, 1935 (274 pages), http://books.google.com/books/about/Anything_Goes.html?id=ZiagSgAACAAJ.

Possible confusion can also occur out of the mere placement of, e.g., “only” in different parts of a sentence. See, e.g., Gallery 7 on the Navigation Bar. See also, e.g., Neil Genzlinger, The ‘R’ Word: Really, Really Overused (Writers, Please Resist), N.Y. Times, Oct. 2, 2012, at C1 (suggests that it is overused on TV, but also cautions that "having words with more than one meaning is dangerous." He gives examples of changes in meaning: “Really?” he notes “was once an expression of wonderment.” Then as “Really!,” it has been used as “an expression of dismay.” Other words, such as, “ ‘Excuse me’ the apology became ‘Excuse me?’ the accusation.” And “ ‘Seriously?’ and ‘Honestly?’ the requests for clarity of intent, became ‘Seriously?’ and‘Honestly,’ the abrupt dismissals.”). Tone of voice in these examples seems to be important, but may not be clear enough to spare the expression's use from being taken in the wrong or unintended way. Professor Barzun's warning of "when convention is broken, misunderstanding and chaos is close at hand" is again well taken.

Another good example of a word taking on a more than one meaning was considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in MCI Telecommunications Corporation, v. American Telephone and Telegraph Company; United States, et al., v. American Telephone and Telegraph Company et al., 512 U.S. 218 (1994). The case involved interpreting the meaning of “modify” as used in a federal statute. The Syllabus of the Court stated that

 

Title 47 U.S.C. § 203(a) requires communications common carriers to file tariffs with the Federal Communications Commission, and § 203(b)(2) authorizes the Commission to "modify any requirement made by or under . . . this section. . . ." Relying on the latter provision, the Commission issued an order determining that its earlier decision to make tariff filing optional for all nondominant long distance carriers was within its authority to "modify." American Telephone and Telegraph Co., the only dominant long distance carrier, filed a motion with the Court of Appeals seeking summary reversal of the Commission's order. The motion was granted on the basis of that court's prior decision determining that the Commission's authorization of permissive detariffing violated § 203(a). Held: The Commission's permissive detariffing policy is not a valid exercise of its § 203(b)(2) authority to "modify any requirement." Because virtually every dictionary in use now and at the time the statute was enacted defines "to modify" as meaning to change moderately or in minor fashion, the word "modify" must be seen to have a connotation of increment or limitation. That § 203(b)(2) does not contemplate basic or fundamental changes is also demonstrated by the fact that the only exception to it deals with a very minor matter:

 

Justice Scalia in his opinion of the Court stated

 

But what petitioners demand that we accept as creating an ambiguity here is a rarity even rarer than that: a meaning set forth in a single dictionary (and, as we say, its progeny) which not only supplements the meaning contained in all other dictionaries, but contradicts one of the meanings contained in virtually all other dictionaries. Indeed, contradicts one of the alternative meanings contained in the out-of-step dictionary itself—for as we have observed, Webster's Third itself defines "modify" to connote both (specifically) major change and (specifically) minor change. It is hard to see how that can be. When the word "modify" has come to mean both "to change in some respects" and "to change fundamentally" it will in fact mean neither of those things. It will simply mean "to change," and some adverb will have to be called into service to indicate the great or small degree of the change.

 

If that is what the peculiar Webster's Third definition means to suggest has happened—and what petitioners suggest by appealing to Webster's Third—we simply disagree. "Modify," in our view, connotes moderate change. It might be good English to say that the French Revolution "modified" the status of the French nobility but only because there is a figure of speech called understatement and a literary device known as sarcasm. And it might be unsurprising to discover a 1972 White House press release saying that "the Administration is modifying its position with regard to prosecution of the war in Vietnam"—but only because press agents tend to impart what is nowadays called "spin." Such intentional distortions, or simply careless or ignorant misuse, must have formed the basis for the usage that Webster's Third, and Webster's Third alone, reported.3

 

Footnote 3: That is not an unlikely hypothesis. Upon its long-awaited appearance in 1961, Webster's Third was widely criticized for its portrayal of common error as proper usage. See, e.g.,Follett, Sabotage in Springfield, 209 Atlantic 73 (Jan. 1962); Barzun, What is a Dictionary? 32 The American Scholar 176, 181 (Spring 1963); Dwight Macdonald, The String Unwound, 38 The New Yorker 130, 156-157 (Mar. 1962). An example is its approval (without qualification) of the use of "infer" to mean "imply": "infer 5: to give reason to draw an inference concerning: HINT inferring that the constitution must be changed—Manchester Guardian Weekly >." Webster's Third New International Dictionary 1158 (1961).

Cf. supra, Ronald A. Wells, Dictionaries and the Authoritarian Tradition: A Study in English Usage 79-82 (1973) at III.A.2. In general: Controversy between prescriptivists an descriptivists -- Barzun’s letter.
  See also, e.g., Samuel Thumma & Jeffrey L. Kirchmeier, The Lexicon Has Become a Fortress: The United States Supreme Court's Use of Dictionaries, 47 Buffalo L. Rev. 227 (1999), available athttp://ssrn.com/abstract=920511 quoting Humpty Dumpty “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less” in Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, in The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll 214 (Mod. Lib. Ed. 1936). See also, e.g., Through the Looking-Glass, Chapter 6 Humpty Dumpty (Dover Thrift Editions [Paperback] Dover Publ. Inc. 1999).

Cf
.
Cabell v. Markam, 148 F. 2d 737, 739 (2d Cir.), aff’d, 326 U.S. 404 (1945), available at http://www.leagle.com/xmlResult.aspx?xmldoc=1945885148F2d737_1642.xml&docbase=CSLWAR1-1950-1985(Learned Hand expresses view that "words used, even in their literal sense, are the primary, and ordinarily the most reliable, source of interpreting the meaning of any writing: be it a statute, a contract, or anything else. [O]ne of the surest indexes of a mature and developed jurisprudence [is] not to make a fortress out of the dictionary [and] to remember that statutes always have some purpose or object to accomplish, whose sympathetic and imaginative discovery is the surest guide to their meaning.").

 

 

D. Writer's attitude: Barzun's wisdom

Professor Barzun's
Chapter 1 "A Writer's Discipline" contains other incisive observations on writing. He writes, e.g., that “most writers come to recognize the need of a discipline” (at 5) to overcome “paralysis” (at 5) or “fear” (at 6) that inhibits the writer from writing. He wisely states that (at 7):

 

"The final product may not contain a single sentence of the original, but in the successive drafts one has only a sense of pleasure at molding a resistant lump of clay -- cutting away here and adding there in the double light of utility and harmony." . . . . To know how to begin, then, is the great art -- no very profound maxim -- but since in any extended piece of work one must begin many times, this is the art which it is essential to master."

His words captured for me one of the most important of many valuable ideas on writing that I learned many years’ ago from Jacques BarzunOn Writing, Editing, and Publishing (at 7-10) and still remember after perhaps 40 or so years. In my words: write down -- capture -- the thought, even if it is inchoate or not expressed well at first, but leave the smoothing for later and continue to refine it – a writing technique and an editing tactic that I have followed to this day to good effect. I expressly acknowledge here this single observation of his that has been invaluable and pervasive to me – always on my mind as I have written almost each word in composing all of my written work.

Professor Barzun's words of wisdom would seem to apply equally to an important component of speaking (oral communication) skills -- preparing in writing. For me, preparing the, e.g., committee report, class lecture (when used from time to time in class), or even for Socratic interplay with students, andorganizing my thoughts in writing was important in my trying to prepare a, e.g., clear, concise, cogent, and complete explanation or other presentation. Thus, his wisdom in his book that “most writers come to recognize the need of a a discipline” (at 5) to overcome “paralysis” (at 5) or “fear” (at 6) that inhibits the writer from writing would also be helpful to prepare, in writing, for oral communications.

I am saddened to read of Professor Barzun's death on October 26, 2012. See, e.g., Edward Rothstein, Jacques Barzun Dies at 104; Cultural Critic Saw the Sun Setting on the West, N.Y. Times, Oct. 26, 2012, at A30 (reporting that "Mr. Barzun was both of the academy and the public square, a man of letters and -- he was proud to say -- of the people" and that he said "[w]riting for a general audience . . . was 'a responsibility of scholars.' "). Among his many activities, he helped create Ghosts Inc., a tutorial service. Id. He also believed that the "mission of the university should have nothing to do with professional training or political advocacy." Id. He "considered science to have had a deleterious effect on university education" -- particularly "mechanical scientism" that he viewed had "baleful consequences." Id. See"In Memoriam" on Home page on Naviation Bar.

Herbert Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “the medium is the message” in Understanding Media 7 (1964). The first sentence of the book concludes with the following phrase “it is a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message.” For some insight into the meaning of this phrase, a few examples may be helpful. See, e.g., Mark Federman, What is the Meaning of The Medium is the Message?, McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology (July 23, 2004, retrieved Oct. 2, 2012), http://individual.utoronto.ca/markfederman/article_mediumisthemessage.htm ("Classically, he suggests that a hammer extends our arm and that the wheel extends our legs and feet. Each enables us to do more than our bodies could do on their own.Similarly, the medium of language extends our thoughts from within our mind out to others (emphasis added).”). Although the omission of the valediction has the effect of not accurately extending my thought to readers of the letter – which requires that for its message to be true to its original meaning the letter must be complete -- the letter, still, even without the valediction, is complete enough to convey the educational message it contains. The humorous element in the valediction would enhance the strength of that message in this medium. See supra, at III.B. Humor in communication settings.

 

See also, e.g., Jason Gross, The Medium Is the Message, Smashing Magazine (July 4, 2011), http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/07/04/the-medium-is-the-message (“Since the early days of communication, humanity has been captivated by the methods it uses to convey and preserve information. How we communicate with each other defines who we are and constitutes so much of what makes a culture and an individual unique.”). Id. (“ ‘The medium is the message’ as a phrase sums up a much deeper communication theory, which is that the medium through which we choose to communicate holds as much, if not more, value than the message itself.”). Id. (He summarizes that the following is important to remember: “First, the medium through which a message is experienced shapes the user’s perception of the message. Secondly, a medium can be the message itself if it is delivering content that would otherwise be impossible to access.”); Jeff Goins, The Medium Is the Message, Goins, Writer (2012), http://goinswriter.com/medium-is-message (emphasizing that “how you say something is as important as whatyou say. And how you receive a message is as important as the message itself.”). The letter was my chosen medium of exchange with Mr. Safire, and the "Sincerely (not otherwise) yours" valediction was intended as the medium through which to communicate the attempted humor in the tandem of the last sentence and valediction.

 

Cf., e.g., Hudson Valley Artists 2008: The Medium is the Message(June 6 – Sept. 7, 2008), Alice and Horace Chandler & North Galleries, Tasha Depp, Trashflower 17, 2007, Oil paint on cardboard, toy packaging, Courtesy the artist, Juried by Denise Markonish, curator at MassMoCA in North Adams, Mass., Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, SUNY New Paltz, http://www.newpaltz.edu/museum/exhibitions/past.html (reporting that “Hudson Valley Artists 2008 takes Marshall McLuhan’s idea that the medium is the message and expands it to include all forms of artistic expression in which the medium is integral to the meaning of the finished work. From painting, sculpture, and photography to video, web projects, and installations, the artists explore the materiality of art-making and the meaning inherent in their choice of media.”).

 

But see, e.g., Staci D. Kramer, The 2012 Pulitzers: The medium doesn’t matter, paidContent: The Economics of Digital Content (Apr 17, 2012 1:15AM), http://paidcontent.org/2012/04/17/the-2012-pulitzers-the-medium-doesnt-matter (reporting that “The Huffington Post won a Pulitzer Prize Monday, an important prize from a group that not too long ago thought the medium was the message — and has since learned that the work is the message (emphasis added)).”

 

IV. Conclusion

The closing/valediction "Sincerely (not otherwise) yours" -- a double entendre -- is susceptible to more than one interpretation, probably two, and possibly even more than two. In any event, the closing was a sort of coda -- a concluding part of a literary work that frequently summarizes what went before but has its own identity. See, e.g., a Merriam-Webster's dictionary, available athttp://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/coda. With or without the valediction, the letter is primarily educational. Without the valediction it probably lacks the impact of an exxtra bit of wit.

 

The main part of my original letter, in citing some of the leading authorities on English/American usage was the letter’s body. It was the mainly educational part, citing Fowler, Follett, and other authorities.

But the last sentence --
"I hope that with respect to the word "otherwise" you will now ask yourself how your column could be written otherwise (differently), otherwise (or else) I may be forced, sensibly or otherwise (without good sense), to write to you again." -- might be thought of as the letter's heart.**

And the valediction's brevity -- "Sincerely (not otherwise) yours" -- might be thought of as the letter's soul, perhaps even its soul of wit. See supra, at III.B. Humor in communication settings (at discussion of “brevity is the soul of wit”).

 

The immediately preceding paragraph of this essay was a fitting ending, and probably still is, but the following episode that I had forgotten until recently begs to be told as a fitting end to this essay:

Someone at Columbia University -- without identifying the person other than as being highly educated -- student, professor, research assistant, or visitor -- corrected my use of "comprised" in -- and I do not remember the exact wording -- but the phrase that I had written was something like the following: "The partnership comprised a general partner and five limited partners." The "correction" -- unsolicited -- was to change "comprised" to "was comprised of" so that the "corrected" sentence read: "The partnership was comprised of a general partner and five limited partners."

Could one have wished for a better example to end this essay -- a suggestion that comes from a seemingly descriptivist "otherwise" turned on his or her head into a prescriptivist!?





_____________________
*Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §107, available at
http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#107 (fair use of copyrighted work for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research is not an infringement of copyright. Whether the use made of work in any particular case is a fair use, factors to be considered include: (1) purpose and character of use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) nature of copyrighted work; (3) amount and substantiality of portion used in relation to copyrighted work as a whole; (4) effect of use upon potential market for or value of copyrighted work. According to the U.S. Copyright Office distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. No specific number of words, lines, or notes may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission. When obtaining permission is impracticable, should consider avoiding use of copyrighted material unless confident that doctrine of fair use would apply to situation, available athttp://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html. Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §§ 101-122 available at http://copyright.gov/title17/92 chap1.html. See also, e.g., Rebecca Tushnet, Copy This Essay: How Fair Use Doctrine Harms Free Speech and How Copying Serves It, 114 Yale Law J. 535 (2004), available at http://www.tushnet.com/copythisessay.pdf; Columbia University Libraries/Information Services, Copyright Advisory Office, Fair Use Checklist, http://copyright.columbia. edu/copyright/fair-use/fair-use-checklist; Stanford Univ. Libraries, http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/ chapter9/9-b.html; Georgia K. Harper, The Copyright Crash Course, University of Texas Libraries ( 2012, http://copyright.lib.utexas.edu/copypol2.html; Copyright, Fair Use, & Educational Multimedia FAQ: A Blackboard Tip Sheet, www.blackboard.com, Blackboard, Inc. (2000), http://www.ccsj.edu/blackboard/BB%20copyright_fair_use.pdf.

From a review of the above criteria, a reasonable inference could be drawn that the use of the excerpt on my website would be within the fair use doctrine for the following reasons: (1) The use is for educational, commentary, criticism, scholarship, and research purposes with no commercial value to me, my purpose being that the publication of the letter on my website may highlight the qualities of the letter as completed with a valediction. The educational purpose is strengthened, especially so, given my longstanding educational interest in the importance of verbal skills as this website clearly emphasizes. And the fact that my letter to Mr. Safire was itself written by me some 30 years' ago is, ipso facto, additional evidence of my longstanding educational focus on the subject matter of the letter. A fortiori, even Professor Barzuncites similar authorities andexpresses similar ideas about the importance of convention in verbal skills. (2) The copyrighted work is educational and had its genesis in, and probably continues to be, in part news reporting. (3) The amount reproduced is reasonably small, approximately 1 1/4 pages out of approximately 477 pages (including introductory material and index). (4) The effect of my using this excerpt on this site, andespecially if I publish an article in, e.g., Chronicle of Higher Education (or a law review/journal, or a business journal, or both) may, probably will, enhance the sales, and profits, of Mr. Safire'sbook in the market andthus enhance its market value, which probably will depend on my web site's influence, or if published in a journal -- its breadthof distribution/audience -- or, perhaps, any third party's (or parties') interest in distribution, or both. I will not profit from the sales of the book nor will I profit from the excerpt because I am not going to sell the excerpt and have no interest in profiting commercially from the use of the excerpt.. My purpose in highlighting the letter is strictly educational and scholarly.

Although the inside cover of Mr. Safire's book identifies him as the copyright owner, the identity of the current copyright owner is not known to me, and. determining the current owner, though presumably possible eventually, would seem to be impracticable, since I do not know the testamentary disposition of Mr. Safire' rights to his intellectual property, whether to members of his family or others. The difficulties of determining the current copyright owner would seem, at first blush, to be considerable, but probably could be resolved by my devoting sufficient time in pursuing the identity. Because I feel reasonably confident that the fair use doctrine is applicable here, I am inclined to reproduce the excerpt of the letter on this site as revised and transformed into the completed letter that I originally sent to Mr. Safire. I stand ready, nevertheless, to cooperate and accede to a request that I obtain permission to reproduce the excerpt should the current copyright owner communicate with me to that effect.

** See, e.g., Marc Myers, Diana Krall Sings With No Strings Attached, Wall Street J., Sept. 21, 2012, at D5 (reporting her new album "Glad Rag Doll" is a "risky deviation for Ms. Krall" but Ms. Krall riposte is "This album is who I am. It just took 40 years to make." Even though I wrote my letter to Mr. Safire over 30 years ago, I suppose that a rough analogy would be that the letter to Mr. Safire has been my essence for long before having written it. Click here, e.g., for more on this expression.