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Just Say No

A good editor is like Pavlov’s dog. Here are five expressions that should make you salivate—for all the wrong reasons.

1. Regarding, concerning

You know you’re talking to a lawyer when you hear things like “Do you have any thoughts regarding where we should go for dinner?” or “I have a serious issue concerning the way she wants to structure the spin-off.”

Pavlov’s dog says: “on,” “about,” or “with”

2. To the extent, to the extent that

Few things scream “lawyer” louder than “To the extent that you have any questions, please feel free to call” or “To the extent the Court does find standing, the Court must still deny Count 3 on the merits.” Almost as loud: “in the event” and “in the event that.”

Pavlov’s dog says: “if” or “even if”

3. Namely, i.e.

Another annoying lawyer-ism: “The prosecution cannot prove a key element of insider training, namely, the purchase or sale of a security.” Or “i.e., the purchase or sale of a security.”

Pavlov’s dog says: Use a colon or a dash.

Try this: “The prosecution cannot prove a key element of insider trading: the purchase or sale of a security.”

4. Due to

A grammatical minefield, this phrase is better off put to rest. So don’t write “We were forced to file this motion due to your stubborn refusal to respond to our requests.” To make matters worse, this clumsy phrase is often paired with “the fact that,” as in “We were forced to file this motion due to the fact that you have stubbornly refused to respond to our requests.”

Pavlov’s dog says: “because,” “from,” or rephrase

Try this: “We were forced to file this motion because of your refusal.” Or “By refusing to respond to our requests, you forced us to file this motion.”

5. Specifically

A bad-habit “sentence adverb” that you should almost always avoid. So don’t write “Seller’s conduct in these negotiations has been reprehensible. Specifically, Seller misrepresented . . . .”

Pavlov’s dog says: Enumerate—or just cut to the chase.

Try this: “Seller’s conduct during these negotiations has been reprehensible. First, Seller misrepresented . . . .”

 

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