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Wednesday, January 31st, 2018 technology  research  practice

A Research Tip

  • Research & Writing

This is an excerpt from an actual letter received from a writer whose identity shall remain shrouded with a justly deserved veil of anonymity:

“We acknowledge your recent correspondence and attachment of the 29th instant with thanks, same being forwarded herewith to our client for reference and review, with the writer confirming our telephone conversation of the 19th, and your undertaking not to take steps to the detriment of our client without ample prior notice to the contrary being first given to the writer, [client] presently being in the process of retaining litigation counsel to deal herewith, with service being endorsed herewith on the true copy as requested.”

Instant? No one has used that for ‘of the current month’ since about 1870. Three instances of herewith in one sentence?? And it’s not entirely clear what the third one is referring to…  Same?! Ugh, ugly commercialese – and, logically, it refers here to thanks not correspondence and attachment (which the writer presumably had in mind). And the writer??!! You’re a lawyer, not Queen Victoria – so there’s no need to refer to yourself in the third person.

I fear this lawyer also writes to clients in the same vein …

Here’s a proposed translation, which may not be much shorter – but at least it’s clearer and doesn’t sound like something drafted by some scrivener in a novel by Dickens:

“Thank you for your letter and attachments of [month] 29, which we have forwarded to our client. We remind you of your undertaking, when we spoke on the 19th, to give notice before taking any steps which may adversely affect our client. Our client is now seeking litigation counsel. We have received your client’s statement of claim and return the signed copy you requested.”

Less egregious, but equally Dickensian (in a bad way):

  • please find attached/enclosed (even in the days of physical letters the please find business was weird and archaic; you can simply say I have attached the X or refer to the X, which is attached)
  • please do not hesitate to … (the reader is a grown-up and can figure whether he or she wants or needs to do that; this is meaningless and faintly patronising)
  • this is to acknowledge (just say thank you for whatever it is; by doing that, you’ve acknowledged it)
  • govern yourself accordingly (the worst kind of wannabe Perry Masonism; it should be clear from your letter, if you’re writing to a lawyer, that the recipient should be on notice about something – and if you aren’t writing to a lawyer, it sounds even more cheaply menacing)
  • we appreciate your consideration herein (another gem from Steven’s correspondent; herein usually means ‘contained in this document’, so the meaning is unclear; but you’re better not even to go there)

Please avoid these (and other) worn-out phrases, which have altogether too much of the inkwell and the quill pen about them.

Next tip: between and among

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

2 comments on Please Tell Me You Don’t Write Letters Like This

  1. A. Lawyer says:

    This isn’t “A Research Tip”.

  2. Neil Guthrie says:

    No, it’s a writing tip.

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