There’s me, and there’s my writings. If you want to know what I think about something, you might want to start by consulting my writings, rather than asking me. I’ve been writing about this stuff for more than 20 years, and a lot of it is complicated, so I can only keep some of it in my mind at any given time. Some topics I recall having written about, but darned if I can remember what I wrote. And sometimes I write something, then check my blog and find that I wrote about exactly the same topic years ago.
I don’t think it’s a function of my being 61 years old. It’s a function of my work having become a sprawling mass.
That has implications for the manuscript of the fifth edition of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting. I’m particularly eager to eliminate all internal inconsistency, where something I say on page 132 is inconsistent with something I say on page 437.
Here’s an example. In chapter 10 (References to Time) of the fourth edition, there’s a section on the phrase the date notified. Well, at some point I added to chapter 13 (Selected Usages) of the manuscript of MSCD5 a section on notify, about the American usage as compared to an English usage. A few days ago I realized that when I wrote the chapter 10 discussion, I wasn’t aware of the English usage, so I got the explanation wrong. I made the necessary adjustment, breathing a sigh of relief—I can’t take it for granted that I’d make the connection between a couple of lines on page 263 of the manuscript and a section on page 398.
Here’s another example. Prompted by this 2020 blog post, I added to MSCD5 a paragraph about how you shouldn’t have a sentence continue after the end of a set of enumerated clauses. That has implications for “dangling text,” which I discuss in 4.44 of the fourth edition. I say in 4.44 that one fix for dangling text is to integrate the enumerated clauses instead of tabulating them, but that’s inconsistent with what I just added to MSCD5; I’ve adjusted the 4.44 text accordingly. The MSCD5 addition also has implications for a chapter 3 topic, whether you put a conditional clause before the matrix clause, or vice versa. I made an adjustment there too.
Eternal vigilance is the price of avoiding internal inconsistency.
1 thought on “MSCD5: Hunting Down Internal Inconsistency”
You should try Donald Knuth’s practice of sending small checks to readers who find errors in his magisterial, multi-volume, still-unfinished opus The Art of Computer Programming (universally known in the techie world as TAOCP). Those checks became so prized that many recipients framed them instead of cashing them, which messed up Knuth’s check register.
(Because of check-fraud problems, Knuth eventually switched to sending fake checks in hexadecimal drawn on the imaginary “Bank of Sans Serriffe”; those checksare equally prized.)