Thursday, February 3, 2011

Linguistic "register" or What is formality in writing, and why do readers demand compliance with formality rules? Part 3. Choice of register

Click image to expand, preferably in separate window

The chart's new sixth column tells what's good and what's bad, what's in and what's out. Formal is the traditional register for law: what should be more formal than the relationship between judge and attorney? Informal register now vies for dominance, its jurisdiction extended by expelling (most of) the hyper-grammatical rules. Everyone agrees it's good you can now start sentences with and. The restriction was arbitrary, its grammatical pretensions dishonest. The false impression that the Informal register is better than the Formal is hard to resist.

Formal register shows its good side when the feature it enlarges improves a writing Virtue, like succinctness (for Concision) and universality (for Clarity). Legal writers should observe the hyper-grammatical and personal-reference Formalities the least that evades violating one, but they should retain (or acquire) the Formal features of succinctness and universality the most their skills allow.

Next part: The celebration of informality and the unsettled status of contractions

No comments:

Post a Comment