advice you can use — short and to the point — every Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 technology  research  practice

  • Research & Writing

What do I mean by this? Pairs of words that lawyers routinely use together, but would be better not to.

These pairs may once (in the late Middle Ages?) have had distinct meanings but now really don’t.

And even in the Middle Ages they may not have: many of these ‘coupled synonyms’ (in Richard Wydick‘s phrase) join an English word with its (Old) French equivalent, in a belt-and-suspenders manoeuvre.

Like ‘free and clear’, which combines the synonymous Old English freo and the Old French cler.


Null and void [how about ‘of no effect’?]
No force or effect [ditto]
Save and except [one or the other, not both]
Full and complete [same comment]
Unless and until [this drives me crazy]
Separate and apart [except as a term of art in family law]
Cease and desist [plain old ‘stop’ will do just fine]

These formulations are redundant and inelegant, they don’t reflect how normal people (like clients) actually speak, and they make your writing look fussy.

Next: avoid the adverb.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)