Think your legal writing is good? Imagine it being better. 12 worthless words you should drop #writinglegally

Posted on 11-19-2014 by
Tags: writinglegally , Upgrading Your Skills , #writinglegally , grammar

Today’s society is always on the go and as a result it has changed the way we write things. Whether you’re a journalist or other profession involving writing you want to make your writing as precise as possible. Why? Because the truth is we keep having shorter and shorter attention spans. So the next time you are writing out something and any of these words come to mind, forget them and move on without them. Here are 12 words to drop according to ABA Journal:

1. And/or
This thing, as nobody knows quite what to describe it as, has been called a “freakish fad”, “accuracy-destroying symbol” and “meaningless symbol” among other things. The bigger problem is that it gives the reader the power to choose how to interpret it when they read and chances are they’ll interpret it the way that is most favorable to themselves.

2. Herein
Let’s throw out the Old-English and use ordinary modern English. This word is hard to figure out what it means. In this agreement? In this section? It’s easier (and more direct) to instead say in this agreement. Aim for preciseness, not fancy.

3. Deem
The word “deem” should create a legal fiction, not state the truth. You’ll rarely need to create legal friction so forget it about it.

4. Know all men by these presents
It’s the legalese way of saying “Heads up!” No need to re-write a simple phrase.

5. Provided that
This cause 3 main problems:
       - Meaning is unclear: it can mean if, except or also
       - Reach is unclear: it may modify the preceding 12 words or the preceding 200
       - Causes sentences to sprawl: it will cause sentences to be strung out/scattered

6.  Pursuant to

Instead of using “pursuant to the contract” say “it is required under the contract” or say that “the contract requires…”

7. Said

Use it for the past tense of say, not for the fancy term for “the”. One will sound like you’re making fun of law talk.

8. Same

Many lawyers use the word “same” as a pronoun because they believe they’re being precise. The problem is that doesn’t make a statement any more precise than if you used “it”. So stick with the word “it”, it sounds better.

9. Shall

This word has many meanings and because of that is seen like a chameleon in a way. Courts have held that shall can mean has a duty to, should, is, will, and even may.


This word has two different meanings. To the educated non-lawyer, it means of that kind. To the lawyer it means the very one just mentioned. Use it only as the non-lawyers do.

11. Whereas

This used to be the old-fashioned way lawyers began writing a contract. This now can be avoided by using subtitles with short declarative sentences that explain what will happen and how it will happen and why.

12. Witnesseth
Lawyers believe this to be a sort of command. Instead of saying “This agreement witnesseth that …” or This is an agreement between [one part and another]. Witnesseth …” try cutting the word out completely.

After looking at the preceding words, I found I was on the same page with many of the word choices. For some of these words it comes down to the way you use the word (such, shall, same) while others should just be deleted forever (pursuant to, herein). Words that make themselves sound like they’re the “oddball out” in a sentence should probably not be used. So next time you’re writing re-read your document and see how it sounds. Check to see if you fall to some of these 12 worthless words.


Posted on : 25 Jun 2015 11:13 AM

It is best to write in simple and legible language. Use words properly and turn complex sentences into simpler and smaller sentences. Use commonly used phrases.

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