20 ways to write like a tool

5th of July, 2013

I used to write a column for the world’s biggest law blog, Above the Law. I sometimes wrote about writing, which lawyers inevitably struggle with despite its being such a major part of their profession. This post was my most popular, with more than 50,000 views and 1,300 Facebook likes. Enjoy …

Ever see Fight Club? Yeah, me neither. The 1999 Brad Pitt movie was more of a cult film than a commercial success, although it did make back its costs. But the movie did have a line that became something of a meme, and was once recognized by Premiere magazine as the 27th greatest line in movie history (which seems dubious, but whatever):

The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.

If only lawyers had the same rule.

You see, being a lawyer is like being a member of an elite club. OK, maybe not as elite as we like to think; there are more than a million members in the US. But elite enough. And the problem is, too many of us are dying to show off to others that we’re members of law club. And one of the ways we do it is by trying to sound like a lawyer when we speak, and especially when we write. This is a problem because sounding like a lawyer is the same as sounding like a tool.

I’ve come up with 20 lawyerisms that do nothing to advance the message you’re trying to send, but instead show that you’re a member of law club. And that you sound like a tool.

How many of the 20 do you use?

1. Pursuant to. This is the granddaddy of them all. No real person would ever say “pursuant to” in conversation, unless what they really meant was “I’m a lawyer; punch me in the head.” Replace this legalese monstrosity with English words, like “under,” or “following,” or even “as required by.”

Read the other 19 lawyerisms here. Avoid the comments; they’re anonymous and useless.