Avoid redundancies


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Expunge Expletives. The word “expletive” comes from the Latin expletus, meaning “filled out.” Expletives, which should be deleted, include the phrases “there are,” “there is,” “there were,” “there was,” “there to be,” “it is,” “it was.” Some jargonmongers call expletives “dummy subjects.”Some examples:

“There are two things wrong with almost all legal writing. One is its style. The other is its content.”


“Two things are wrong . . . .” “There is no rule that is more important.”
“There is no rule that is more important.”Becomes:

“No rule is more important.”
“There is no case law that addresses the question.”Becomes:

“No case addresses the question.”
“The court found there to be a discovery violation.”Becomes:

“The court found a discovery violation.”
“It is the theory that lends itself.”Becomes:

“The theory lends itself.”
As You Like It. Delete “as,” if possible:“Some consider drinking as a defense to murder.”


“Some consider drinking a defense to murder.”

“He was appointed as a court attorney.”


“He was appointed court attorney.”
To Be or Not to Be. Delete “to be,” if possible:“Some consider drinking to be a defense to murder.”


“Some consider drinking a defense to murder.”

“The opinion needs to be lengthened.”


“The opinion needs lengthening.”
Don’t Let It Come Into Being. Banish “being,” if possible:“The attorney was regarded as being a persuasive advocate.”


“The attorney was regarded as a persuasive advocate.”
And being that we are on the subject, don’t substitute “being that” for “because”:“The court reporter types quickly being that he has magic fingers.”


“The court reporter types quickly because he has magic fingers.”
In the Nick of Time. Toss “time,” if you’ve got the time to do so:“The brief will be submitted in two weeks’ time.”


“The brief will be submitted in two weeks.”
In That. Don’t begin sentences with “in that” or use “in that” in an internal clause:“In that the judge’s mother was a litigant, the judge recused herself.”


“The judge recused herself because her mother was a litigant.”
Rally Against Relative Clauses. Strike the nonstructural “who,” “who are,” “who is,” “whoever,” “whom,” “whomever,” “which,” “which is,” “which are,” “which were,” “that,” “that is,” “that are,” and “that were.”Structural example:

“The attorney believed his client owed him $500.”


“The attorney believed that his client owed him $500. (The attorney didn’t believe his client.)

Nonstructural example:

“I hope that you will write concisely.”


“I hope you will write concisely.”
Excise nonstructural relative clauses in an appositive. Appositives rename or ascribe new qualities to a noun:“The judge, who is 44 years old, is a strong editor.”


“The judge, 44 years old, is a strong editor.”

“Law clerks [remove who are] not averse to writing might find their words quoted and remembered.”

“Albany, [remove which is] a large city even though natives call it ‘Smallbany,’ is the state capital.”
Reduce “Fact” Phrases. Delete “in fact” (a trite formula that, if ever used, should in fact be restricted to facts, not opinions), “in point of fact,” “as a matter of fact,” “the fact is that,” “given the fact that,” “the fact that,” “of the fact that,” “in spite of the fact that” (meaning “although”), and “the court was unaware of the fact that.”

“The fact that” can almost always be deleted.

Other “fact” expressions should be replaced by something more concise, such as “actually.”
A good rule: Don’t confuse facts with rules.


“The opinion relies on the fact [should be on the rule] that involuntary confessions are inadmissible at trial.”
Vitiate Verbosity. Needless to say, of course, anything that is wordy or need not be written should not be written.

(Should be: “Anything that need not be written should not be written.”)

“There can be no doubt but that [delete throat clearer] you should not use empty phrases [write in affirmative] despite the fact that [although] many writers would appear to [delete qualifier] register disagreement [fix nominalization—disagree].”

“Plaintiff, Ms. A, filed a lawsuit against defendant, Mr. B, alleging that Mr. B. committed a breach of their contract of employment.”

“Ms. A sued Ms. B for breaching their employment contract.”
Crush Compound Prepositions. Replace compound prepositions with a more concise expression or word:“in connection with,” “in relation to,” “in case of,” “in the instance of,” “on the basis of.”
Prohibit Pleonasm. Pleonasms are unnecessarily full expressions. Pleonasms are double subjects, or pronominal appositions:“The court, it held that . . . .”

Becomes: “The court held that . . . .”

“The law clerk, who e-mailed me, she likes me.”


“The law clerk, who e-mailed me, likes me.”
Use Ellipticisms. Ellipticisms prevent word repetition:“At the estate sale the judge’s robes brought $100, the judge’s books brought $1000, and the judge’s gavel brought $10.”


“At the estate sale the judge’s robes brought $100, the judge’s books, $1000, and the judge’s gavel, $10.”
Mind Your “Manner” Phrases.“He appeared in court in a disheveled manner.”


“He appeared in court disheveled.”

“She dresses in a grotesque [hasty] manner.”


“She dresses grotesquely [hastily].”

“He acted in a negligent manner.”


“He acted negligently” or “He was negligent.”
The Nature of Character. Excise “nature” and “character” if you can:“Acts of a hostile nature [or character]” becomes “hostile acts.”
Factor Out Degrees. Excise “factor” and “degree” if you can:“Plaintiff relied on [delete the factor of] surprise.”

“The juror showed [delete a] great [delete degree of] interest in the case.”
Mortgage Your Modifiers.If you use vigorous verbs and concrete nouns, you will not need to bolster lifeless verbs and vague nouns with wordy modifiers.
Abjure Unnecessary Adjectives and Adverbs.Choosing the right, specific vigorous verb or concrete noun results in brighter, more concise writing. Especially intern intensive adverbs, also called adverbial excesses: “absolutely,” “actually,” “certainly,” “completely,” “extremely,” “greatly,” “obviously,” “plainly,” “really,” “surely,” “truly,” “undoubtedly.” Intensive adverbs exaggerate and bluff. They raise the hackles of the best lawyers: skeptical lawyers.
Don’t Lead With Lead.“The books the judge owned were the Official Reports.”


“The judge owned the Official Reports.”

“The New York State Office of Court Administration’s new policy resulted in increased morale among nonjudicial employees.”


“The New York State Office of Court Administration’s new policy increased morale among nonjudicial employees.”
Throttle Throat Clearers. Don’t introduce what you plan to write. Just get to the point.Throat clearers, also called metadiscourse, include hundreds of running starts like “The court recognizes that . . . .” and “It appears to be the case that . . . .” Anyway, if you use preambles like “speaking as a lawyer,” your reader won’t know whether you’re bragging or offering a disclaimer.

Exercises created by Atty. Gerry T. Galacio; all rights reserved. You can freely use these exercises, but you must not upload them to any website or the cloud. For comments, questions, corrections, or suggestions, email gtgalacio@yahoo.com


Exercises created with freeware Hot Potatoes v. 6.3 from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.


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