Strictly Ballroom?

Strictly Ballroom is the title of a 1992 movie by Baz Luhrmann.

What has this to do with legal writing? The word strictly.

Like all adverbs, strictly is weak, even when it is meant to sound tough.

Think of strictly prohibited, which is frequently seen in toothless e-mail notices: ‘This e-mail message is privileged and confidential. Any unauthorized use or disclosure is strictly prohibited.’ By what? Sender, the horse is out of the barn door.

Strictly prohibited seems to be especially popular in the regulations of Nova Scotia. Some choice excerpts from the Boxing Authority Regulations, NS Reg 155/2002, for example (emphasis added): 

184 It is strictly prohibited for boxers to practice “blood boosting”, the intravenous administration of blood or blood products to enhance the boxer’s performance, for non-medical or recreational purposes.

185 (1) The administering or use of drugs or stimulants, including smelling salts or ammonia, either before or during a boxing match, to or by a boxer is strictly prohibited.

187 The use of iron-based coagulants such as “Monsel’s Solution” or any of its derivatives is strictly prohibited and the use of any such coagulant is cause for immediate disqualification.

As opposed loosely prohibited, somewhat prohibited, only a little bit prohibited?

Just say something is prohibited and set out the penalty for violating that.

As bad is strictly forbidden, often seen in warnings not to reproduce or download material – and in the English versions of Quebec regulations:

          A common drinking-cup is strictly forbidden. [Regulation respecting sanitary conditions in industrial or other camps, CQLR c S 2.1, r.5.1, s 11]

Adding strictly runs the risk of exposing your threat as empty, if you can’t back it up.

Just who is policing shared use of cups in the industrial camps of Quebec anyway?

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

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