The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Editing Tip

|The Volokh Conspiracy |


I sent in some comments on a particular proposal, a day before the deadline, and got the message:

The Committee will consider all comments received after the comment period closes.

If only English were a computer programming language (or a system of algebraic notations), we could avoid ambiguities like this, because we'd write something like,

The Committee will consider (all comments received after the comment period closes).

or

(The Committee will consider all comments received) after the comment period closes.

And there would be an unambiguous default rule that indicates how things would be understood without the parentheses (as with the order-of-operation rules in algebraic notation). But, alas, you can't do that in English, so you need to proofread your sentences carefully to see how they might be misinterpreted.