Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Another tip on effective legal writing - drop those "crutch" words

This humorous article from The Atlantic Wire is directed mostly at verbal communication skills but those pesky "crutch" words still have a way of insinuating themselves into one's writing too. They are superfluous written "ticks" that detract from the power that comes from stating one's point as directly as possible. They are weak rhetorical devices because they communicate equivocation rather than confidence, not something any advocate wants to do.

The Atlantic has compiled a list of the worst offenders in common use today. Check it out and see if any of your personal verbal or written pet peeves made the list. If not, please feel free to add suggestions in the comments below.

Actually, Literally, What Your Crutch Word Says About You

Crutch words are those expressions we pepper throughout our language as verbal pauses, and sometimes as written ones, to give us time to think, to accentuate our meaning (even when we do so mistakenly), or just because these are the words that have somehow lodged in our brains and come out on our tongues the most, for whatever reason. Quite often, they do little to add meaning, though. Sometimes we even use them incorrectly. Almost always, we don't need them at all, which doesn't mean we won't persist in using them. Here's our list of frequently used crutches, and what your crutch of choice has to reveal about you.

Actually. Actually, you may already know how we feel about actually. I've argued that it's worse than literally because it offers up sheer attitude in place of literally's intellectual pretensions.

. . . .

As it were. If you use this, which I did above, you are possibly worse than a literally-dropper. You're the most self-aware of crutch-word users, because you know you're saying something rather cliched, a hackneyed expression or at best an aging metaphor, and yet you're going forward with it anyway.

. . . .

Basically. You like to cut to the chase, to synopsize, to bring things down to old bottom line of what's really, truly important. You are always downsizing, cutting the clutter, throwing out a sweater for every new one you purchase. So, basically, this is what you do.

. . . .

In a weird way. You are the experimental hallucinatory drug user of crutch words. Or maybe you just feel things, like, a lot. Whatever: You're very emotive. So, in a weird way, your expression makes sense, at least to you, though everyone else is, like, "Why does he keep saying in a weird way?


Be sure to read the rest of the list here.

Big tip 'o the hat to Legal Blog Watch.



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". . . as verbal pauses, and sometimes as written ones . . ." Does the writer understand that verbal is not synonymous with oral? Verbal merely means expressed in words; they can be in written or oral form. To remember the difference between verbal and oral, it may be helpful to think of the two words in the context of sex.

Posted by: Otto | Sep 13, 2012 6:05:44 AM

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