Legalese is a speed bump on your legal argument superhighway.

This week we consider legal jargon.  So easy to type, but so annoying to read.  Consider this confounding sentence:  “As hereinafter explained, and pursuant to the infra citations, and the legal analysis embodied therein, Jones is entitled to summary judgment.”  Or consider these puzzling sentences:

  • Comes now defendant in answer to plaintiff’s complaint.
  • In witness whereof, I hereunto set my hand and seal.
  • Further affiant sayeth not.

Say what?

Legal writing guru Bryan Garner (and one of the Scribe’s heroes) advises that “in every state in which judges have been polled, they’ve overwhelmingly said that they’d like lawyers to stop using legalese.”  This has been the Scribe’s experience as well—readers prefer sentences and paragraphs that are uncluttered by legalese.  Why?  Because legalese does nothing to communicate your point; and if language doesn’t actually communicate, then it shouldn’t be used.  It may help to think of legalese as speed bumps on your legal argument superhighway.  It makes for a jarring ride.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use certain Latin phrases that describe legal concepts—such as quantum meruit and res ipsa loquitur.  But you should let go of phrases such as “matters set forth herein,” “aforementioned,” and “above-referenced cases.”  They just don’t add anything to your writing.

That is all for now …

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Filed under Judge Irritants, Troublesome Words

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