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"Copy editor" nominated to U.S. Supreme Court.

The writings of Judge John G. Roberts Jr., nominated to become a member of the U.S. Supreme Court, are gaining attention for his grammatical accuracy in both reviewing briefs and writing his own memorandums and briefs.

In a New York Times article (8/29/05) titled "In Re Grammar, Roberts's Stance Is Crystal Clear," * Anne E. Kornblut writes of a comment made by Roberts in one memo, "It was a typical remark from a legal scholar who is said to have never lost a local spelling bee as a child and who once wrote an entire White House memorandum in French. In fact, an obsession with rhetorical precision is a central Roberts trait ..."

Once, in a memorandum responding to a school superintendent's opposition to the administration's education policies, Roberts said no legal issues were involved. "But," Kornblut writes, "he took the opportunity to note, 'The letter is very sarcastic, although Willard inadvertently proves our point about the quality of public education by incorrectly using "affect" for "effect."'"

A Roberts colleague summed up the judge's view:

"Your brief writing conveys not only your argument to the court, but it also conveys a sense of your credibility and the care with which you put together your case."

Another time Roberts was moved to correct the often-quoted sentence of Neil Armstrong upon landing on the moon. "It is my recollection that he actually said 'one small step for a man, one giant step for mankind,' but the 'a' was somewhat garbled in transmission. Without the 'a,' the phrase makes no sense."

* Judge Roberts would probably object to the paper's use of 's in the above sentence since it follows the s in Roberts's name but proceeds the S in Stance.
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Title Annotation:Editing
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Aug 31, 2005
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