Unnecessary Legalese, Mostly Archaic

This word is unavoidable as a technical term in litigation: one commences an action under the Courts of Justice Act, RSO 1990, c C43, for example.

But don’t use the word in normal parlance or non-technical writing, where it sounds fussy and pompous.

She didn’t commence employment on whatever date; she started work.

While we’re on the subject, the academic term commencement for a graduation ceremony (so, the conclusion rather than beginning of one’s course of study) has always seemed strange to me – perhaps because it’s a Cambridge term, and more recently an American one. But it’s old, going back at least as far as 1387. I guess it’s like Cambridge colleges holding May balls in June.

Oh Lord, no!

While there are some mid-Victorian colloquial examples of thusly, the correct adverb is thus – and, frankly, that has no place in modern legal writing either.

If you are still using –eth as a verb ending, unto might be OK.

There is no reason to be using it in modern English, however.

We herein provide you with an update on the status of …
These opening words from an actual e-mail are a waste of everyone’s time.

Just say what the status is: We closed the transaction, The court dismissed the appeal, whatever it is.

The preamble is just meaningless filler with a phoney air of gravitas.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

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