No Thanks: Six Words and Phrases to Avoid

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  • Josh Daniels

    For some of these, I would agree with categorical avoidance: “pursuant to,” the various “assuming constructions,” “is not required to,” “exemplifies,” and “furthermore.” But other “just say nos” here sometimes work very well if used judiciously, and sometimes I have found they may even work better than the alternatives provided, at least in certain settings. A lot depends on context, and on what sounds right to to the ear. We don’t always want to hear (in our heads as we read) one- or two-syllable words; sometimes, the ear craves a different rhythm.

    • Ross Guberman

      Definitely, and I hope that people don’t interpret my “just say no” phrase too literally. But I have found very few attorneys or judges who overuse short words. Quite the contrary, in fact.

  • Hi Ross, my only quibble is using “as to” instead of “regarding” in mid-sentence. It’s perfectly fine to start a sentence with “As to” (as your example does) but it’s syntactically ambiguous if used mid-sentence. Besides Garner’s DMAU, see W. Follet (“as to” “tempts to jargon and waste”) and Theo. Bernstein.

    • Ross Guberman

      Great to hear from you, Matt! I’m not thrilled about “as to” and don’t use it in my own writing, but I would still place it a rung above “with respect to.” I used to think that “as to” was popular for lawyers because of the summary-judgment standard we learn in law school: “no dispute as to a material fact.” But it is perhaps too common to be explained on that basis alone. That said, I don’t necessarily find “as to” ambiguous. For example, “At the hearing, the judge did not saying anything as to damages” is not elegant, but to me its meaning is unambiguous. Thanks for writing and I hope to see you again soon!

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