Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Legalese.

Legalese. Despite popular prejudices, not all uses of legal language are bad. But unnecessarily complex legal jargon — or “legalese” — is widely viewed by legal scholars as the source of many problems: (1) it alienates people from their legal system; (2) it besots its users — namely, lawyers — who think they’re being more precise than they really are; and (3) it doesn’t communicate efficiently, even to other lawyers, despite occasional claims to the contrary. For comprehensive treatments, see David Mellinkoff, The Language of the Law (1963); Bryan A. Garner, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage (2d ed. 1995); and Bryan A. Garner, Legal Writing in Plain English (2001). For a plain-language law dictionary, see Black’s Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004). Quotation of the Day: “Here is reason to keep a journal. You will learn how to observe the things that happen to you, how to sort out the important from the unimportant, how to put your observations into words, and perhaps how to make sense of your life. The daily practice of writing your own autobiography will develop the habit of writing that is essential to anyone who wants to become a writer. In years to come you can rediscover your own life by seeing what you have preserved of your earlier thoughts and experiences. When you write every day about yourself and your immediate world, you will develop habits that will help you observe the greater world beyond yourself.” Richard Marius, A Writer’s Companion 17 (1985).
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