grammar police badgeLate I am, but I still cannot let National Grammar Day pass without taking note.

It was “celebrated” on March 4, but I didn’t spot any parades or floats. However, the day gives us the opportunity to consider the role grammar plays in our lives.

Actually, that’s a little bit high-falutin’. What the day allows us to do is to get all judgy about other people’s awful grammar.

To mark the day on this Change of Venue Friday, I suggest you test your skills as a grammarian here. You might be pleasantly surprised that your you’re quite the talented expert.

Or, if you’re feeling pretty poetic, enjoy the results of the Twitter-borne haiku entries in a National Grammar Day contest.

Here are a few favorites:

Punctuation needs To be more important than The Kardashians #GrammarDay @copyeditors

— marducey (@marducey) March 3, 2014

Do not attempt a semicolonoscopy. Ask an editor. #GrammarDay

— John McIntyre (@johnemcintyre) March 1, 2014

And yes, I am now following those two insightful wags.

And then, because every fake American holiday must be marked via humorous T-shirts (memes before anyone invented memes), I offer you a Buzzfeed site that contains some shirt-borne grammar humor. (A hat tip to my friend William Tandy for spotting this sartorial site.)

Many are quite good, but here, I think, is my favorite.

T-shirt evokes national security: Grammar Day error terror

Finally, if you seek a rousing defense of adverbs that is really, really well written (hold it; that seems to be a piss-poor use of intensifying adverbs), enjoy this.

Here’s wishing you a typo-free weekend.

When it comes to law practice, there’s nothing that quite says “Change of Venue Friday” more than poetry. So let’s get rhymin’.

What made me think of the topic was the annual writing competition by the American Bar Association. The Ross essay contest is almost always—you guessed it—an essay.

Recently, though, the ABA has been on the haiku bandwagon. Given the short attention spans of busy people, 17 syllables may be just about right. You can read more about the contest here.

Unfortunately—and this will be the subject of my poetical rant belowyou must be an ABA member to participate. (Full disclosure: Our annual Arizona Attorney Creative Arts Competition is open only to Arizona lawyers. But we’re talking about the ABA, people. Come on. It’s almost a public institution.)

If you are an ABA member, submissions are due September 28. Here are the rules (yes, of course there are rules) and the submission form.

Here is the ABA’s short description (if they could have kept the rules to 17 syllables, THAT would have been an accomplishment):

“In this year’s Ross Essay Contest, we’re looking for 17 syllables that address one of these five topics: Innovation, Inspiration, Law Practice, On Being a Lawyer or the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Members Only? It went out with the jacket.

Yes, that’s right: You must select one of the topics, and be explicit about it; there’s even a dropdown menu on the submission form (just as Bashō originally required, I’m sure).

(And I assume in their topic list they should have included a comma before “or”—otherwise, I may be inclined to write a haiku on the topic “On Being the U.S. Supreme Court.” Hmm. “I got opinions …”.)

So back to my issue with the members-only submissions. Here’s my one-word reaction.

Really? Or, as Judge Learned Hand used to say, “REALLY?”

I get it. Paywalls are everywhere, and members like to feel special. But walling out poets? Say it isn’t so, ABA. You may be full up with tax lawyers, or securities specialists. But I’m willing to wager that your poet coffers are not full to bursting.

So I beseech you.

Don’t get all dictatorial with your caesura. We could be a pair—even a couplet—you and I. Stop being a pest with the anapest. Don’t get literal over your conceit.

We could be epic.

Amidst the constraint of the 5 7 5, I offer a few writing samples, my own protest wrought into rhyme. I invite you to offer your own, my fellow non-ABA members:


Within the gilt gates

ABA members harrumph.

Without, poets seethe.


Fencing out meter

May be lawyerly and all,

But learned it ain’t.


Erskine Mayo Ross

Bequeathed $100-sweet-K

To prod all, not some.


“Yo, tear down these walls,”

Say lawyer poets.

“Rhyme’s for sharin’, bro.”

Have a great weekend.