Monthly Archives: April 2015

Allude versus elude …

The Scribe spends most days sequestered in his office, slogging through judicial opinions. Although rarely inspired, the writing is usually competent. But the Scribe recently came upon this abomination in a judicial opinion: “In this case, arbitration’s convenience has alluded the parties.”

“Alluded”?!

Upon regaining his senses and composure, the Scribe concluded that if a (presumably) learned jurist could make such a grotesque mistake, mere mortals, too, might be susceptible to the same error. And so it is that this week we consider “allude” and “elude.”

“Allude” means to refer to something indirectly or by suggestion. Note that “allude” is not the same as “refer.” Use “allude” to indicate a more subtle reference to something. And because “allude” means only an indirect reference to something, one cannot “expressly allude” to anything; an “express allusion” is an oxymoron.

Meanwhile, “elude” means to avoid or escape. In the sentence quoted above, the judge plainly meant to say that “arbitration’s convenience had eluded the parties.”

That is all for now …

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Please stop persecuting “that”!

The English language has several pronouns—including who, whom, whose, which, and that—that are used to introduce relative clauses (in case you are wondering, they are called “relative” pronouns because they “relate” to the word that the relative clause modifies).  Unfortunately, a number of writers omit “that” from their sentences in the belief that the word is unnecessary.

In his guide, Garner’s Modern American Usage, Bryan Garner explains that omitting “that” is ill advised because it can create a miscue—even if only momentarily.  Consider these examples:

  • The court held that the mother should have sole custody of the child.
  • The court held the mother [wait, the court held the mom?] should have sole custody of the child.
  • The dealer claimed that the baseball card was worth $1 million.
  • The dealer claimed the baseball card [the dealer claimed the card?] was worth $1 million.

As you can see, omitting the word “that” can cause a miscue for your readers, and require them to work harder to figure out what you are trying to say.  So please, don’t persecute that—it’s a useful little pronoun.

That is all for now …

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