Saturday, August 20, 2011

Advice to a Young Would-Be Patent Law Scholar - 05 (NEVER and ALWAYS)

What about all those rules that begin NEVER or ALWAYS?

For example, my own invention is "NEVER use 'clearly' or 'merely' more than once in ever 25 pages."

What does that rule do? It probably does NOT make you count how many pages between your first and second use of MERELY. But it probably DOES make you self-conscious every time you write either of those words. And that is the reason for NEVER and ALWAYS rules. They lie in wait, pouncing on you when you violate them. Maybe you can convince yourself that violating them is OK this once. I manage to do that, from time to time. But every time you read the violating text, your inner voice will say "Really? You just HAD to do that? You couldn't find a way around it?" And sometimes you, or I, reply, "Silence! Yes, violating the rule this once was brilliant. But I won't do it again, I promise. Or anyway, not this year."

By the way, for more on merely/clearly, see MERELY/CLEARLY.

A friend (OK, Terry Kearny, then at Fish & Neave, now at Latham Watkins) once told me he'd been taught NEVER to use Moreover or Furthermore. I use them, but again, I cannot do so without remembering Terry. He, and his teachers, were correct about these words. I appreciate that often they are used because the author has not organized the presentation with enough care, or has not figured out how to marshal those 'more' facts in the most persuasive way.

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