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LEGAL WRITING

WORDS AND EXPRESSIONS CONFUSED AND MISUSED

List of words and expressions often confused and misused:


Abhorrence of or abhorrence for? Use abhorrence of; abhorrence for is incorrect. Ex. God has a clear abhorrence of the sin of his people. Abolition. So spelled. Not abolishment. There is no word as abolishment in the dictionary. Ex. Abolition of capital punishment. Abstruse and obtuse. Abstruse is hard to understand. Obtuse means dull, slow. Above-mentioned, above-listed, before-mentioned, etc. Simply these are cumbersome phrases. Acting mayor and acting as mayor an acting mayor is one who acts such when there is vacancy in the post.The one appointed shall hold office for the unexpired term of the office while acting as mayor is one where there is no vacancy in the post of mayor. One is only acting as such temporarily and during the temporary disability of the regular incumbent. Adjoin, adjourn, adjure. Adjoin is to be next up, adjourn is to suspend a session and adjure is to command. Admittance; Admission. The first is purely physical [No admittance], whereas the second is used in figurative and nonphysical senses. Example: admission to the bar.

Adapt, adopt. Adapt means to make fit or suitable, to adjust; adopt to take as ones own, to accept formally. Adverse; averse. To be averse to something is to have feeling against it; to be adverse to something is to be turned in opposition against it. We usually think of people being averse of something, and of circumstances of being as being adverse; but in law, with our adversary system, we often refer to adverse parties. Aforementioned; aforesaid. Expunge this lawyerisms; they have little or no justification in modern writing. Aggravate. Avoid this word in place of annoy or irritate. In formal prose, aggravate (literally to add weight to) means to make worse, exacerbate. Alimentary and elementary. Alimentary pertains to nourishment. Elementary is simple and basic. All . . . . not. Not all is usually the correct sequence in negative constructions. Example: Poor All writers did not accept Lord Cokes dictum. Better Not all writers accept Lord Cokes dictum. All of. Omit of <all the depositions>, except when a pronoun follows< all of us were deposed>.

Altogether; all together. The first means completely, wholly, or in all. The claims were not altogether unfounded. (wholly) Altogether, 4,000 members attended the bar convention. (in all) The second means at one place or at the same time<the defendants were tried all together>. and/or. Banish from your working vocabulary this much condemned conjuctive-disjunctive crutch of sloppy thinkers. Reason: It creates ambiguity. Poor a fine of P500.00 and/or imprisonment for not more than 10 days. Better a fine of P500.00 or imprisonment for not more than 30 days, or both. The word or usually includes and: Example: No food or drink allowed. That sentence does not suggest that, singly, food or drink is disallowed, but that if you take both food and drink, you have not violated the rule. This is so because and signals in addition as a conjunction, a connector of added material. And moves items together. Or is disjunctive; it presents the alternative or the exclusion. Or maybe inclusive and exclusive but not both.

Ante- or anti-. Ante- means in front of or before as in antebellum. Anti- means against or opposite as in anti- intellectual and anti-body. as good as, if not better than. A correctly phrases but awkward and mixed comparison. A statement will be more effective when if not better is put at the end. Awkward: My work is as good as, if not better than, your work. Improved: My work is as good as yours, if not better. arguendo. Unnecessary and (for many readers) obscure in place of for the sake of argument. In British legal contexts, arguendo usually means during the course of argument so unless your readers are all Americans, the word may even be ambiguous to those familiar with the word. As far as . . . . is concerned. Wordy filler. Avoid this if you can. Poor As far as any damages are concerned, we expect them to be insignificant. As if or as though. Either one means in the same way that it would be if. They can be used interchangeably. As much or more than. Incorrect for as much as or more than. As per. Help stamp out this unrefined bit of legaldegook and commercialese. Use in accordance with or under, if you insist on greater concision, per alone Example: Under the terms of this contract. . .

Rather than As per the terms of this contract.. as to. Use this phrase only at the beginning of a sentence As to the other plaintiffs, their claims are barred As a preposition, as to should always be replaced by a more specific word (of on, with, for, to, by, in, to, into), or dropped completely. Example: The trial court failed to specify as to what [read specify what] the defendant relied on. as to whether. Delete as to. Whether is sufficient. as yet. Like the variation as of yet, this phrase is invariably inferior to yet alone, thus far, or some equivalent phrase. as the time that. Try using when instead. At this point in time. Try using now or currently for a clearer more concise sentence. Attorney or Lawyer. Generally, attorney refers to a specific person representing a client. Ex. Attorney Ulep moved for a new trial. The term lawyer refers to the general category of people qualified to practice law. Ex. One hundred lawyers attended the seminar on the New Corporation Code. A while; awhile. A while is a noun phrase meaning a period or interval. Awhile is an adverb meaning for a short time. When the term is introduced by a preposition, spell it as two words.

Example: He rested for a while. He rested awhile. Basis, on a... Generally avoid this long-winded phrase. Example: Poor: The standard must be applied on a case-by-case basis. Better: The standard must be applied case by case. Biannual; biennial. Biannual like semiannual, means occurring twice a year. Biennial means occurring once every two years. In other temporal instances, bi-means every two (biweekly, bimonthly) and stands in contrast with semi- meaning twice every (semiweekly, semimonthly). To eliminte likely confusion, write twice-yearly or semiannual, not biannual. Case. This word best refers only to a legal case, a medical case, grammatical case, or a case of wine. In legal writing, avoid such phrases as in any case, in case, in every case, as is often the case, and as the case may be. Case of, in the. Instead of discussing a precedent by saying, In the case of People v Luna, say simply: In People v Luna. Can hardly or cant hardly. Can hardly is always correct. Cant hardly never is. In legal writing, it is often better to rephrase can hardly with some other phrase like can scarcely or can barely. Can hardly is used loosely and frequently in speech, and as a result sounds rather informal. Center around. Something can center on or revolve around something else, but it cannot center around, as the center is technically a single point.

Claim. This verb originally meant to lay claim to, but it is now often used in the sense to allege, assert. Example: She claimed that the correct had been rescinded. In this sense, claim often suggests an unsubstantiated assertion: She claimed... but the evidence was against her. Avoid using the word merely as a substitute for say or state. As a noun, claim properly denotes either a demand for something <a patent claim> or that which is demanded <her claim was 40 acres> . Using the noun as an equivalent of assertion is now acceptable. Collaborate and corroborate. Collaborate is to work or act jointly. Corroborate is to confirm. Common (-) law. Hypenate the phrase when it functions as an adjective <common-law misdemeanors> but make it two words as a noun phrase <the common law forbade such evidence>. Compendium. An abridgment-not, as some mistakenly believed, a vast tome. Compendious, the adjective, means, abridged, shortened, not volumious. Conclusory. This term means expressing a factual inference with out expressing the facts on which the inference is based. Because it is far more common in legal writing than its variants, conclusional and conclusionary, it is preferable to them.

Conform to, confirm with or conform in. Use conform to. Consensus. So spelled. Avoid the redundant expression consensus of opinion and general consensus. Consort and concert. Concert is to act in harmony or conjunction. Consort is to keep company. Consul, council and counsel. Consul is a diplomatic official. Council is an administrative body while counsel is a legal representative; to give advice. Contagious; infectious. A contagious disease is communicable by contact with those suffering from it. An infectious disease spreads by contact with the germs. (e.g. In the air or water). Correspond to or correspond with. Use correspond with if you mean that you and another party are writing to each other. Use correspond to if you mean that one point is analogous to another. Criterion. One criterion, two criteria. Currently and presently. Although current and present, as nouns as basically synonymous, the adverb traditionally signal a difference in time. Example: We are currently(right now) studying word choice. Presently (in the very near future) we will stop and take a break. Cynosure and sinecure. Cynosure is one that attracts. Sinecure is an easy job. Deem. Often unnecessary, and usually stilted. Try to avoid it, that is, deem it to be undesirable in your writing.

Defamation; libel; slander. Defamation- an attack upon the reputation of another. It encompasses both libel (written in defamation) and slander (spoken defamation). Deluded and diluted. Deluded is ,isled or confused. Diluted is weakened in consistency. Depraved and deprived. Depraved is corrupted. Deprived is divested or stripped. Disposal; disposition. Both mean a getting rid of, disposal has more often to with trash or inconsequential things, or in the phrase at ones disposal, whereas disposition is used of a preconceived plan of orderly arrangement < disposition of assets> < disposition of the case> Different from, than, to. Different than and different to are considered colloquial by some authorities, improper and incorrect by others. Use different from. Differentiate, distinguish. Differentiate means to show specific differences in two or more things. Distinguish means to point out general differences. Disorganized, unorganized. Disorganized refers to lack of an orderly system. Unorganized means not having an orderly whole. Dissociate. This is preferable to disassociate. Doubt if, doubt that , doubt whether. Doubt if should be avoided in business and legal writing. Doubt that is the preferred expression in negative or interrogative sentences when little doubt exists. Doubt whether is usually limited to situations involving strong uncertainly. Doubtless. This is the correct adverb; doubtlessly is wrong. Due to. Some authorities label this phrase colloquial when it is used to mean because of. Some prefer owing to, caused by, on account of and because of. Most important, remember that due to the fact that is a wordy way of saying the short and simple word since.

During the time that. Try substituting while. Each and every one. Discard this trite phrase except in a dialogue. -edly. Words ending in this way, are more prevasive in law than elsewhere. Often the classic adverbial formula in a ...manner does not work with such words-allegedly does not mean in an alleged manner, purportedly does not mean in a purported manner, and admittedly does not mean in an admitted manner. Rather the orthodox formula for these words is passive: it is-ed that. For Example, allegedly=it is alleged that, concededly=it is conceded that, purportedly=it is purported that. Instead of bewailing how orthodox these words are, we should, without over working them, be thankful for the terseness they make possible. Other such words include supposedly, assertedly, reportedly, and confessedly. effete. This term means barren, exhausted, or decadent not effeminate. e.g.; i.e. The first, short for exempli gratia, means for example. He tries all types of cases, e.g. Commercial cases, personal-injury cases, divorces. The second, short for id est, means that is. She is the dean of the law school, i.e., the final authority on matters of this kind. These abbreviated phrases should be set off by commas. ejectment and ejection. Use ejectment in law when you refer to forcible entry and unlawful detainer actions. Ejection on the other hand is a noun meaning an ejecting or being ejected. Enclosed please find. Avoid it. Instead, write I have enclosed or (less good) Enclosed is.... End result. Result is adequate unless you are discussing complicated math formulas.

Enjoin. The word has opposjte senses: (1) to direct, mandate and (2) to prohibit. In the sense(1), the verb takes the preposition to or upon. Secrecy is enjoined upon jurors. We are enjoined to decide only actual cases or controversies. In sense (2), the usual preposition is from: The court enjoined the pilots continuing strike. Enthused. As an adjective <very enthused>, this word is always inferior to enthusiastic. As a verb <Wonderful! he enthused>, it smacks of catchpenny journalism. Enormity. Use only in the sense of monstrous wickedness. Misleading if not wrong when used to express bigness. Equal, coequal. Equal means the same in number, i.e., equal number. Coequal means a person or thing equal to another in rank and dignity. Equally as .... as. This wording is incorrect. Equally as good as, for example, wrongly displaces as good as or equally good. Erasable and irascible. Erasable is removable by erasing. Irascible is hot tempered. Etc. Short for et cetera (and other things). Lawyers should generally-in pleading, for exampleattempt to be as specific as possible instead of resorting to this term. Still , it would be foolish to lay down an absolute proscription against using etc., for often one cannot practicably list all that should be listed. Rather than convey to the reader that a list is seemingly complete when it is not, the writer might justifiably use etc (as always abbreviation). Use the serial comma before this word, but never the word and. Be careful not to use etc. After a list of persons; et al., short for et alii ( and others), serves that function.

Everywhere. Always written as one word. Every place is commonly misused for everywhere. Evidentiary. This is the customary word, not evidential Fact. A fact cannot literally be false; if something is a fact, then it is by its very nature true. Yet in law we frequently uses facts as a short form of alleged facts. No order may recite untrue facts. Avoid true facts, untrue facts. Fact of the matter, the. Omit or drop this useless phrase. Reason: There is no loss of meaning in the sentence. Example: The defendant did not raise the issue of lack of jurisdiction until he hired a new lawyer. Rather Than: The fact of the matter is that the defendant did not raise the issue of lack of jurisdiction until he hired a new lawyer. Fact that, the. Avoid this phrase too. Reason: It adds extra words without extra meaning. Example: The failure of the weighing scale was caused by inferior materials. Rather than: The failure of the weighing scale was due to the fact that it was caused by inferior materials. Factor. The word properly means an agent or cause that contributes to a particular result. Avoid using it in the slipshod sense a thing to be considered; event, occurrence. Fatal. Not comparable. If anything is fatal, it cannot be more fatal, More nearly fatal is allowable. Finalize. A favorite word of jargonmongers. For that reason alone, and also because the coinage does not fill a gap in the laguage(use make final), it is to be answered. Free from, free of. The former is idiomatically correct. Free of is considered either colloquial or dialectal.

foregoing. A lawyersim to dispensed with. Foreword and forward. A foreword is a preface or introduction. Forward suggest movementonward. Fort and forte. Fort means an enclosed place. A fortified building. Forte means special accomplishment or ability. Gage or gauge. Gage is a security deposit while gauge is to measure. Gait and gate. Gait is a manner of walking while gate is an opening in a wall or fence. Genius and genus. The former refers to a great ability. Genus refers to a class or kind. Gibe, jibe and jive. Gibe is to tease or mock; jibe is to agree while jive is foolish talk. Guilt; culpability. The second matter of fact regardless of whether it ever becomes known; the first is what is determined by the trier of fact. Learned Hand is said to have remarked that anyone can be a killer, but only a jury can make murderer.