[eDebate] Concerns with Resolution Two

Evelyn Spruce evelyn.spruce
Thu Jul 9 11:38:57 CDT 2009

?Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially reduce
the size of its nuclear weapons arsenal, and/or substantially reduce and
restrict the role and/or missions of its nuclear weapons arsenal.?

I write to express concerns with the above resolution. In particular, I
believe its grammatical unsoundness suffices to justify its rejection.

First, the comma separating arsenal and the first ?and/or? (?weapons
arsenal, and/or substantially?) is inappropriate. Hacker, Strunk and White,
the Chicago Manual of Style, and the Government Printing Office Style Manual
specify that commas should only be used with lists of three or more items
(the debate over serial commas does not apply here). Even if it was vague or
ambiguous without the comma, the proceeding clause should have been revised
into an independent clause. Simply rewriting the resolution to read ?and/or
it should substantially? would have satisfied both the desire for a rigorous
resolution and the demands of competent writing.

Second, the use of ?and/or? is stylistically wanting. While ?and/or? is an
informal expression, I think the need for crafting an adequate resolution
provides leeway. But this ?leeway? has boundaries, and I submit that the use
of ?and/or? twice in the same list item exceeds them. The second ?and/or?
appears unnecessary. The wording paper on ?mission? claims that ?[r]oles are
the broad policy themes and missions are the specific tasks that carry out
the roles.? If this assertion is correct, then to restrict the role of the
U.S.?s nuclear weapons arsenal requires restricting its missions. That the
restriction be ?substantial? suggests that the converse is also true. I am
not qualified to make sweeping content-related indicts of the resolution, so
even if ?and/or? is not needless insofar as it provides a choice between
restricting the role, mission, or both, it is stylistically unsound.

These grammar and style-related improprieties are sufficient to disqualify
the resolution without any content considerations. Adopting this resolution
would not comport with the debate community?s commitment to improving

 The chosen resolution will be widely circulated outside of the debate
community: programs will submit the resolution to their administrations for
publication in college newspapers and debaters will include the resolution
on written statements for graduate schools or potential jobs. I concede that
not every program or debater will share information in this fashion, but
some will. Even if this resolution is content-superior to the other two,
that will be unknown to individuals outside the debate community. All they
will read is a grammatically imprudent resolution. These grammar and style
errors may deter prospective new debaters: if I was completely unfamiliar
with resolutions, this wording would make me reconsider participating.

My criticism of the grammar and style of this resolution should not be
construed as support for either of the other two.
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