Subtle Distinctions

Lawyers should possess semantic exactitude—we should appreciate subtle distinctions between words or expressions that look, seem, or sound similar.

In this issue, we explain the differences between:
alphabet and letter
ambiguous and vague
amount, number, and quantity
anyone and any one
awesome and awful
bath and bathe
been and being
borrow and lend
breath and breathe
Britain, England, Great Britain, and United Kingdom

alphabet versus letter
Alphabet refers to the entire system of letters of a language. Alphabet means “the letters of a language arranged in their usual order.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Alphabet is the set of letters. A, B, and Care not alphabets; they are letters. A letter is a unit of the alphabet.

ambiguous versus vague
Ambiguous means susceptible of two different meanings. To use ambiguous, you must have in the mind the two possible interpretations.

Vague means abstract; difficult or impossible to pin down. To use vague, you need not proffer or even contemplate a specific interpretation or several specific interpretations. The meaning is just not clear.

amount, number, and quantity
Use amount only with uncountable or mass nouns: amount of water, amount of food, amount of work. Never use amount with countable nouns: never say or write amount of people, amount of books, amount of phones. Say number of people, number or quantity of books, number or quantity of phones. Never say quantity of people.

anyone versus any one
Anyone always refers to a human being, but any one can refer to inanimate objects or abstract ideas. Say you have several cars and I want to borrow one. I should say, “May I borrow any one of your cars?” not “May I borrow anyone of your cars?” Of course in speech, they sound alike. But when you write, remember: anyone always refers to a human being.

awesome and awful
Awesome is positive; awful is negative. Awesome is good; awful is bad.
Although your dictionary may include a negative nuance in defining awesome, in usage awesome is positive. Your listeners or readers won’t read a negative connotation into awesome. God is awesome. Rolls Royce is awesome. Awesome means ‘amazing, astounding, awe-inspiring, great, splendid.’
Awful means ‘very bad or unpleasant.’

bath and bathe
Bath is the noun, bathe the verb. A bath could mean a bathtub or similar container in which we wash ourselves, or an act or instance of washing oneself or another. You take a bath. You go into the bath.
To bathe is to wash oneself or another, or to wash a part of the body. You bathe. You bathe the baby. You bathe the wound.

been and being (auxiliary verbs)
Been is past; being is present. Been is not merely past—it is typically completed past. When your client returns from the police station after an unpleasant visit, she has been interrogated. When your client is at the police station answering difficult questions and her husband calls you for an update, you report that she is being interrogated.

borrow and lend
The giver of a loan lends; the receiver borrows. Borrow me your pen is bad English. Say, lend me your pen.

breath and breathe
Breath is the noun; breathe the verb. Breath is an act or instance of taking air into the lungs, or the air so taken, or an amount of air that enters the lungs at one time.

Breathe means “to take air into your lungs and send it out again through your nose or mouth.” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary)

Britain, England, Great Britain, and United Kingdom
Britain is an island comprising three countries: England, Scotland, and Wales. When you get a British visa, you can enter any of these three countries.

England is the part of Britain we’re most familiar with.

Great Britain is what the British call their island. I don’t think it’s great. I think Nigeria is great.

United Kingdom is short for United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. So United Kingdom contains four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

What a complicated geography lesson!

Two-day Program for Brief Writing Workshop 25-26 March 2015

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Here is the program for this week’s 2-day workshop on Brief Writing Masterclass:

Day 1- Wednesday 25 March 2015

• Registration & Distribution of Materials (Ibukun Anibijuwon)
• Seating of Participants according to Work Groups (Ololade Olukowi)
• Tea and Networking (Enobong Ubia & Senator Ihenyen)

Think before you write/Use Flowers paradigm/Case Theory etc (Chinua Asuzu)

Discussion (led by Chuks Nwana & Afolake Laoshe)

10.00- 10.45am:
Issue Formulation (Chinua Asuzu)

Discussion (led by Babatunde Olubando & Emeka Anolefo)

The facts section (Chinua Asuzu)

Discussion (led by Ekundayo Ajetunmobi & Emmanuel Bwala)

The Argument section (Chinua Asuzu)

Questions & Answers


Rebuttal & Refutation (Chinua Asuzu)

Discussion (led by Jude Ezegwui & Ngozi Udokwu)

Citations & Quotations (Chinua Asuzu)

Questions & Answers

Tea and Networking (Enobong Ubia & Senator Ihenyen)

Day 2- Thursday 26 March 2015

Tea and Networking (Enobong Ubia & Senator Ihenyen)

The Architecture of Argument/The Rhetorical Triangle (Chinua Asuzu)

Discussion (led by Olayemi Shofolu & Wale Banjoko)

Logic & Clear Thought (Chinua Asuzu)

Obiter: witness statements, laying foundation for secondary evidence, witness examination (how to phrase questions)

Breakout Sessions- Work Groups tackle tasks (Enobong Ubia & Senator Ihenyen)

Group Photos (Enobong Ubia & Senator Ihenyen)


Group A presentation

Group B presentation

Group C presentation

Group D presentation

Discussion, Questions & Answers

Feedback, Certificates, Gifts, Tea, and Closing (Enobong Ubia & Senator Ihenyen)

If you are yet to register, you can still do so today or tomorrow.

The workshop starts 9am on Wednesday 25 March 2015 at Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja Lagos.

If you have any questions, please ask us.

Brief Writing Masterclass- Learn to write killer briefs.

Sheraton Hotel Ikeja Lagos, 25-26 March 2015

Brief Writing Masterclass is boldly interdisciplinary in its approach to persuasive writing. Communications theory, linguistics, logic, psychology, and rhetoric are just a few of the disciplines that combine to make this course peerless.

Issue formulation is the backbone of successful brief writing.

Justice Antonin Scalia of the US Supreme Court agrees that issue formulation is key to writing persuasive briefs. Following is an excerpt from Scalia’s interview with Bryan Garner, the famed legal-writing coach:

Garner: Herbert Wechsler is reputed to have said that he would spend half his time writing a brief just on crafting the issues. Does that make sense to you?
Scalia: That makes total sense. That makes total sense.
Garner: Why?
Scalia: That’s what the case is about, especially at the Supreme Court level. We don’t care who wins or loses. We care about what the legal issue is that is going to decide not just this case but hundreds of other cases. So the crafting of that issue, “Look, this is the point of the controversy. This is the core of it.” Man, that’s everything. The rest is background music.

Attend Brief Writing Masterclass to learn how to draft winning issues. You will learn lots more about preparing briefs, submissions and written addresses. See the flyer and the course outline below.

Dates: Wednesday 25-Thursday 26 March 2015.
Time: 9am-5pm each day.
Venue: Sheraton Hotel Ikeja Lagos
Daily Buffet at Crockpot Restaurant, Sheraton.
Fee: N120,000.

Please pay to The Write House, 0153954433, GTBank.
• If you pay by online transfer, enter your full name in the Reference or Remarks column of your bank’s online platform, or email transfer advice to
• If you deposit cash or cheque, scan and email deposit slip to
• Once we confirm your payment, we shall register you and prepare your certificate in advance.

The Write House
Phone +234 806 735 1417, +234 809 876 4066

Brief Writing Masterclass March 15 200

Course Highlights