Even the most fastidious lawyers can make blunders. Try your hand at these ten common examples of legal usage. Then check your answers at the end and see how well you did.
The court order awarded the plaintiff only 50% of its: [(a) attorneys’ fees, (b) attorneys fees, (c) attorney’s fees, (d) either (a) or (c), but never (b)].
The [(a) principle, (b) principal] of stare decisis dates back only to the Middle Ages.
The State’s [(a) principle, (b) principal] interest in the proposal is public safety.
None of the summoned witnesses raised [(a) litigable, (b) litigatable] objections.
She [(a) plead, (b) pleaded, (c) pled] guilty to manslaughter.
Our apartment lease requires the tenant to give [(a) two weeks, (b) two weeks’, (c) two week’s] notice before moving out.
The plaintiffs are not [(a) averse, (b) adverse] to talking settlement.
Much to everyone’s surprise, his testimony was considered to be [(a) de minimis, (b) de minimus].
The most effective briefs avoid [(a) ad hominum, (b) ad hominem] attacks on the opposing party.
The rule that a contract is construed most strictly against the drafter is [(a) contra proferentum, (b) contra proferentem, (c) contra preferentem].
Answers: 1. (d). 2. (a). 3. (b) 4. (a). 5. (b). 6. (b). 7. (a) 8. (a). 9. (b). 10. (b).
Did you hesitate before answering some questions? You’ll find a detailed discussion on each of these points and more in Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage (3d ed. 2011). With a few minutes’ reading, you’ll improve your language skills and confidence.
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