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Consistency Is The Solution To A Gray Area (Or Is It Grey?)

Proofreading is tedious.  And no matter how many times you proofread a brief, you inevitably spot a hidden “misstate” about two seconds after you file it.  If you have read my blog posts long enough, you know that perfection is a noble, but unobtainable, goal.

However, next time someone suggests that proofing (or re-proofing) is not a valuable exercise, take a look at State v. Walker.   In what must have been the drafting fun of the day, Judge Murphy included a rather light-hearted, but revealing, footnote about how seriously the appellate courts take proofreading:

The spelling of gray is a grey area. See generally Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed. 2004) (listing grey as a variant of gray). We note the trial court’s transcript uses “gray” and order uses “grey” to describe the same color, causing some inconsistency in the spelling of “grey” in this opinion.

The closely-related cousin of proofreading is consistency.  For example, should you use periods in (R. p. ___)?  The Appendix to the Appellate Rules requires counsel to comply with the latest version of the Bluebook, but the example in Appellate Rule 9(b)(4) says that the printed record should be cited to as  “(R p ___).”  My answer to this nerdy dilemma, is to pick a format and try to follow it consistently. Which usually means that I remove dozens of habit-driven periods from my (R p __) citations before filing an appellate brief.

For the record, I am a fan of the Browning Amendment: “The author of a brief shall use the version of the Bluebook in effect the year the author graduated from law school.”

Does consistency make my chosen method the only correct method?  No.  Does consistency make me feel a little better about my brief?  Well, . . . “Yes.”  At the end of the day, my hope is that those eagle-eyed readers on Morgan Street see the effort I (and numerous other people) put into trying to catch typos and inconsistences before we filed our briefs–and then give us a wee-little break when a disastrous heading about the “TRAIL COURTS JUDGEMENT” sneaks in.

What inconsistencies drive you bonkers?  Who is brave enough to admit to a bit of neurotic behavior? What is your biggest proofreading mistake (or secret)?  Have fun revealing all in the comments below!

–Beth Scherer

 

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2 Responses to "Consistency Is The Solution To A Gray Area (Or Is It Grey?)"

  • Robert Montgomery
    October 13, 2017 - 2:04 pm Reply

    I’m too old now to find a copy of the Bluebook to know what it required when I graduated from law school. That being said, our office (at least the Criminal Division) generally follows the latest version of the Bluebook except where the N.C. Supreme Court has deviated from it. In that case, we try to do what the Court does in its opinions.

  • Robert Edmunds
    October 16, 2017 - 9:48 am Reply

    Over the years, I’ve seen some memorable goofs. The most startling was when an errant space turned a “therapist” into “the rapist.” I also liked the brief that described a case as taking place at “Emerald Aisle.” And the brief that described a case as having the “Seminole analysis” of a pertinent issue. Remember–spell check isn’t always your friend.

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