Today’s tip is brief, because the Scribe is headed to court to argue a motion and save the world.
On NPR this morning, there was a discussion about “preventive care” and I thought, shouldn’t it be “preventative care?” After consulting Webster’s, I determined that “preventive” and “preventative” have the same meaning and are used interchangeably. But while neither form is wrong, “preventive” is the more common, and strictly correct, version.
That is all for now …
When I was just starting out as an associate, I proudly handed in a draft brief to one of the partners on a case I was working on. I was convinced that this was a shining example of spectacular legal writing; the partner was certain to be impressed. Imagine my disappointment when she handed the draft back, with the word “benefitted” circled, and a nasty note scribbled in the margin: “Benefited. Spell check your brief before handing it in.”
I was mortified and outraged. I did spell check my brief! There were no other spelling errors. How, how, could I have missed this one? I jumped onto my computer, booted up Microsoft Word, and typed in “benefitted.” No squiggly red line appeared underneath it. Ha! I thought, I caught the senior partner in a mistake! But then, I typed in “benefited.” Again, nothing happened. No squiggly red line appeared. How could both of these words be correct spellings??
The answer, I soon learned, is that one is the American spelling, and the other is the British spelling. And spell check on Word does not necessarily alert you if you are using the British spelling, so it is good to know the rule. Here’s how it works here in the United States:
If the syllable immediately preceding the -ed is emphasized, the last consonant in the word should be doubled before adding -ed:
Occur ~ Occurred
Embed ~ Embedded
Excel ~ Excelled
Patrol ~ Patrolled
Beg ~ Begged
If a syllable other than the one immediately preceding the -ed is emphasized (usually the first syllable), just add -ed to make it past tense:
Label ~ Labeled
Total ~ Totaled
Target ~ Targeted
Focus ~ Focused
And of course, the example that is seared in my memory for all eternity:
Benefit ~ Benefited
That is all for now …