Monday, December 12, 2005

Archaisms that must go

Hereinbelow a list of archaic words and phrases we should banish forthwith:

know all men by these presents
This phrase still shows up in deeds and other real-estate papers. If you are beginning drafted documents this way, stop it. It's archaic nonsense and also sexist.

to wit
No writing experts support this phrase. There is always a simpler equivalent: "for example," "such as," or the colon.

wherefore premises considered
I had a legal assistant ask me after a seminar if it was okay to remove this phrase from the end of a motion. Yes, it is, but you don't have to ask me. Look it up. No one defends it; all the experts are against it.

Do you know what this means? If not, why are you putting it in your document? If you do look it up, you'll see that it's an "archaic formalism [that is] best forgotten." David Mellinkoff, Mellinkoff's Dictionary of American Legal Usage 691 (West 1992).

--Excerpted from Better Legal Writing by Wayne Schiess

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