Peikoff Grammar Course Lecture 3 Notes

Notes on Lecture 3 of Leonard Peikoff’s Grammar Course.

Techniques of emphasis


Leonard Peikoff (LP) isn’t an italics fan, thinks they’re like shouting (he seems to regard them as being similar to ALL CAPS though he doesn’t draw that comparison himself)

Word order

End of sentence has most emphasis/weight in reader’s mind.


I believe, however, that you have failed.

However, you have failed, I believe.

I believe that you have failed, however.

Only first is acceptable in normal context according to Peikoff

Periodic versus loose sentences & climax

Periodic sentence is a sentence where you need to get to the end in order for the grammar to be complete, and this holding the resolution of the grammar until the end can create a tension per LP.

Loose sentences have their grammar resolved earlier.


The leading figure of German philosophy, the author of the anti-Enlightenment, the final destroyer of civilization, is Kant.


The leading figure of German philosophy is Kant, who was the author of the anti-Enlightenment and the final destroyer of civilization.

I agree the first example has a certain drama and tension to it missing from the second.

LP also notes that the negative descriptions against Kant rise in seriousness and intensity and that’s an intentional writing technique thing.


Now let us turn to the branch of philosophy called metaphysics. Metaphysics studies the universe as a whole. The nature of reason is not part of the field. Metaphysics studies reality, not knowledge—facts, not cognition—that which is, not how man comes to discover it.

Two examples of repetition above: repeating metaphysics 3 times and angles on reality vs knowledge.

More repetition needed in oral communication than written.

Accidentally repeating words in a sentence but using different meanings is bad.


He believed that people would believe his story, since he had reported on the trip since seeing you.

But if you are using the same concept, use the same word (or a pronoun).

Be careful with negation:

He did not think that studying Latin was much use, so he was not often on time and did not pay any attention to his teacher, in whom he did not have much confidence.

Peikoff rewrite:

He thought the study of Latin useless, so he usually came late and ignored his teacher whom he distrusted.


Definition: A form of expression in which logical sameness is deliberately expressed through structural sameness.

The first was Mr. A, and the second was Mr. B.

Appropriate use of parallelism.

The first was Mr. A, the second being Mr. B.

Mr. B has been demoted to a participle here.

The first was Mr. A, and the second’s name was B.

Bringing the name up suddenly in second clause violates parallelism.

If you study, and if you read the notes, you will do well.

This is fine.

If you study, and assuming that you read . . .

By the fact of varying the form, you are calling more attention to assuming.

If you study, and should you read . . .

Another example of variation of form without a good reason.

Parallelism is basically about using the same grammatical structure to start each element of a sentence.

He said that it was wrong and that he for his part would not do it.

This is fine because both that clauses are noun clauses serving as object of said.


Correlatives: conjunctions used in pairs to connect coordinate elements

Not only … but also
Either … or 

Justice is a crucial virtue for an employer, not only in the selection of employees, but also in the treatment of them.

Parallel. Both expressions following “not only” and “but also” are prepositional phrases with nouns.

Justice is a crucial virtue for an employer, not only in the selection of employees, but also in treating them.

This changes the ordinary noun in the prepositional phrase after the “but” into a gerund.

Justice is a crucial virtue for an employer, not only as regards the selection of employees, but also in treating them.

No good reason for switching preposition. Should be “in” or “as regards” for both.

For the next problem, a tree!

Economy/Avoiding Wordiness


After he comes in, he then takes off his clothes.

Peikoff particularly dislikes “then” here and I agree it’s unnecessary (cuz we already said “after”.)

My opinion: could reduce it to 5 words maybe: After he arrives, he disrobes.

In lecture, LP criticizes the example “This is used for fuel purposes”, wants to strike purposes. Reminds me of this video re: “boarding process” and some of the other stuff Carlin complains about (not all of it though – I think Carlin’s criticisms are a mixture of good points and incorrect jokes/wordplay.)

LP doesn’t like intensifiers like “very” in general and says you should pick a stronger word in the first place rather than trying to intensify a weaker one.

Another wordy sentence (Peikoff calls this excessive predication and says it has too many clauses):

The tourists drove for a period of three days and they then arrived at Padua; this is a bustling city, and it is located quite close to Venice.

My rewrite:

After a three day drive, the tourists arrived at bustling Padua, which is near Venice.

Or a different style might be:

A three day drive took the tourists near Venice to bustling Padua.

Peikoff’s version:

After driving for three days, the tourists reached Padua, a bustling city near Venice.

Peikoff says don’t cut too much.

In my years at school, I have written many final examinations, and I always feel stark terror.

Peikoff says you need to read this kind of thing literally and that it omits any words which explicitly give some kind of connection between the exams and the terror (such as “and they cause me” or “and when I do”).

Russia is an excellent example of no element of individualism.

Individualism and Russia are not the same category of thing. You’d need something like “Russia is an excellent example of [a country with] no element of individualism.”

She was as loud, if not louder than, her sister.

“her sister” doesn’t pair up with “She was as loud”. You need another as at the end of “She was as loud”.

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