jueves, 18 de marzo de 2010

Stuffy Words and Legalese

Just because you know what malum prohibitum means or what a habendum clause does is no reason to use such language at the dinner table. A lawyer should keep in mind that the purpose of communication is to communicate and this can’t be done if the reader or listener doesn’t understand the words used.

Some lawyers also tend to use words in peculiar ways, using same as a pronoun and said as an adjective . Some pepper contracts and resolutions with whereases and wherefores. Harsher critics suggest that the impenetrable language serves the same purpose as mumbo-jumbo always has: to keep the public in the dark and protect a trade monopoly. Less severe critics chalk it up to professional inertia.

Fortunately, the trend today is toward plain language and away from the stuffiness and jargon-laced prose that characterized so much legal writing in the past. It’s a welcome trend, and one that writing coaches universally encourage.

Gardner, Bryan, The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (2nd Ed.), Thompson West, 2006.

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