The following is an interaction with Linda Devore (Copyeditor of novels, brochures, advertising copy, presentation programs, research papers, Websites, business proposals, employee manuals, product catalogs,
legal materials, journals, family histories, and more Publisher and designer of Websites, journals, newsletters, brochures, and other materials in personal publishing business, DeVore Desktop Design, Copyeditor for National Humane Society publication Kind News for students, Copyeditor for MacGregor Publishing, Expert witness for grammatical interpretation at trials, Content Consultant for The English Pages, a Website for teachers and students to support, a line of English textbooks and to provide material in the fields of
composition, literature, developmental skills, and technical writing, from publisher Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., Copyeditor for Kairos, an online journal, and Petopia.com, Copyeditor for HRS Journal, Copyeditor of management textbooks,Editor, English consultant, and typist for a
National Science Foundation Study, Effects of Water Pollution Abatement on the Textile Industry in Alabama and Georgia, Presenter of two teaching seminars at Association of Christian Schools International, Doctoral Candidate at the University of South Florida, Masters in Arts and College Teaching from Auburn, Professor of English at the University of South Florida and Auburn). Her responses are in red.
Question: I've got a question concerning the grammar of the
national high school debate topic; it is the
Resolved: The United States federal government
should establish a policy substantially increasing
the number of persons serving in one or more of the
following national service programs: AmeriCorps,
Citizen Corps, Senior Corps, Peace Corps, Learn and
Serve America, Armed Forces.
The crux of the question has to do with the word
The Mayfield Handbook of Technical and Scientific
Writing states that "active participial adjectives
are formed from the present participles of verbs.
They describe nouns that are actively causing or
participating in an action."
We first must establish and agree on a point you have not made: that "policy" is an active concept and critical to the meaning of "increasing." See my final point below.
With this definition to work with, the debate
community has been embroiled in a discussion over
what the function of the word "increasing" actually
is in the resolution. The important part of this
question is what kind of "policy," grammatically
speaking, "increases" the number of people serving
in those groups?
Because "sitting" may be interpreted in two ways, there is no definitive grammatical answer to whether it means "causes an increase" (thus "causing an action") or "results in an increase" ("participating in an action" that leads to a result) in the number of people serving in those groups. Whether the word means "that increases" or "results in an increase," in my opinion, does not affect the intention of the policy.
This argument has centered around whether or not
there is a grammatical basis for an interpretation
of "increasing" which holds that the "increase" must
be a prima facie one. That is, does the grammar of
this resolution mean that a policy must "on-face"
increase the number of persons serving in those
organizations, or can a policy be established whose
RESULT is to increase the number of persons serving
(or is there no definitive grammatical
interpretation for either)?
Again, I think the key is the word "policy," which is always enforceable by action; its purpose is to cause a result, either guaranteed or at least promoted by action.
Take the following example:
(To understand the example, a brief explanation of
how debate works might be helpful. In each debate,
there are two sides, an affirmative, and a negative.
The affirmative's job is to defend a specific policy
to be established (aka "plan"), and the negative's
is to negate the necessity of that plan. This
example has to do with what kind of plan falls
within the bounds of this resolution.)
Plan 1: The United States federal government should
mandate that all American citizens under the age of
24 serve a 15 month term in the Armed Forces.
Plan 2: The United States federal government should
overturn "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." (This team would
go on to argue that the existence of Don't Ask Don't
Tell prevents some people from joining the armed
forces, and as such, removing the policy would
result in more people joining the armed forces).
The question is: is there a grammatical basis within
the resolution for saying that Plan 2 is not "a
policy substantially increasing the number of
In a word, no. I do not think you can argue the negative in this way because the grammar does not support it. Plan 2 does result in the increase purposed by the resolution, regardless of whether the increase is cause or effect and regardless of whether the purpose of the policy is to cause an increase or something else (e.g. uniformity or like-mindedness necessary for a successful military). The policy actively yields an increase in the number in either case.
Montgomery Bell Academy
Linda M. DeVore