There are many grammatical mistakes or instances of unnecessary wording that can appear in legal writing–mistakes that a non-linguistic eye may not catch. But it’s imperative to correct these in your writing if you truly want to come across as a knowledgeable professional. You’ll also most likely boost your own confidence as a writer in the process, and of course there’s always room for improvement in every profession.
Here are some of the more common mistakes that turn up in legal papers, some of which can actually tarnish your image as a respectful professional. Some of these mistakes are glaring, while others are hardly noticeable unless you’re more familiar with them.
This word isn’t improper grammar, but using it in legal writing is an unnecessary practice. Words such as “besides,” “and,” or “also” work just as well–keeping the writing formal while retaining simplicity.
Like “furthermore,” statements can be tighter and just as purposeful by replacing “moreover” with “besides” or “and.”
This is a triple word combo that serves only to needlessly lengthen writing. “Inasmuch” is especially unneeded because it can carry several meanings, which is why you should aim for words like “since” or “because.”
Verbs Used as Nouns
Verb/noun interchanging occurs often in legal writing, and is actually referred to as a “nominalization.” You should avoid this practice because it makes sentences simpler to only use one verb. For instance, you wouldn’t say “I took a walk to the bank.” Instead, you’d say, “I walked to the bank.” It’s more direct and to-the-point. In fact, a single verb can substitute an entire phrase, i.e. “give an example of” can be replaced with “exemplify.” The key, again, is to keep it simple.
Many confuse the uses of these words in legal writing, which can be fairly easy to do given their similar pronunciation and the fact that “ensure” and “insure” only differ by one letter. The fact is they carry different meanings; “ensure” means to confirm that something will happen, “insure” refers to the monetary insurance of someone or something, and “assure” is used when someone makes a promise to another.
Here are another two words that are commonly confused. “Endorse” refers to the action of supporting either a person or a movement, such as to endorse a politician. “Indorse,” on the other hand, is to support a legal document through signing, like when someone indorses a check by signing the back.
In the Event That/In the Event Of
These are two phrases that can easily be simplified with the use of more concise words. Substitute both with “should” when possible: “should this change” is better than “in the event that this changes,” and “should slips happen” is still better than “in the event of slips.”
This is not a word, yet it shows up in legal writing frequently. Use real words like “regardless” and “disregard” when looking for a negative of “regard.”
Although Shakespeare is responsible for many innovations in the English language used beyond the Elizabethan era, this word is not one of them and shouldn’t be used in legal contracts like it is. You should omit this word altogether.
These are only some of the many mistakes that most commonly appear in legal documents, and are harmful to otherwise professional writing. Many times technical writers attempt to sound as formal as possible while forgetting that some of the simplest words relay the same message just as effectively.