Legalese and other words to banish

It’s Friday, so I figured a slightly snarky post of language pet peeves might be in order.

“…and, also a new CD will be released…”

I heard that on a satellite radio station this week, and it bugged me. One of those two options was more than adequate, yet the redundancy “and also” is frequently used. Knock it off. We wouldn’t say “and and” or “also also,” so why “and also”?

Another word for lawyers and judges to get rid of: enjoin (as well as its various forms such as “enjoined”). Other than those who speak legalese, does anyone use this word? We see it often in court orders: “The parties are enjoined from…” If you are one of the parties, do you know what it means? If not, how can you comply with the order? What’s wrong with the word prohibit? Everyone knows what “prohibit” means, so why not just use it instead of “enjoin”? Parties will understand it, and no one will feel like the lawyers and judges are talking down to them.

Comes now This has driven me crazy since day one of my law practice. “Comes now the plaintiff, by John Lousywriter, and moves this Honorable Court to enter an order…” How about a nice simple “Plaintiff requests the Court to enter an order”? (But not one enjoining anything!)

Purported This word must be used carefully. We often use it as a synonym for “alleged” or “claimed.” Purported means those things, but with a degree of skepticism. You might write, “The alleged burglar was actually in Sacramento on the date of the crime.” It might be stronger to say “The purported burglar was actually in Sacramento when the crime occurred.” Still, “purported” is one of those words that only lawyers use. Bah. Get rid of it.

Why should we get rid of these words and other legalese? I think the answer is simple. We lawyers have all seen pro se parties fill their pleadings with various bits of legalese, often to an unfortunate degree. It’s almost as if the person feels they have to say the right magic word. Really, we know deep inside that simpler is better. Would anyone rather read Faulkner’s stream of consciousness over Hemingway’s short sentences?

There’s one more reason to get rid of legalese. When legalese is used, it looks as though the lawyer is hoping the over-formality of the writing will be persuasive. Sadly, it never works, and the reader can see right through it. The old adage, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullsh**” doesn’t work in legal writing.


2 thoughts on “Legalese and other words to banish

  1. As a pro se defendant… I thank you… well done! Now how can I get the word “purported” removed from the pleadings in the complaint against me… it is… so… skeptical sounding! 😦

    1. Unfortunately, there’s no way to make the other side get rid of any legalese in their pleadings, but at least yours can be written clearly. I really get the sense that lawyers and judges just read over words like “purported.”

      Thanks for your comment!

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