Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Word usage: elegant variation

Varying your words for the sake of variation can make the job of writing more interesting, but it can also make the job of reading more difficult. Linguist H.W. Fowler condemned the overuse of "elegant variation" in his classic book Modern English Usage:
  • The fatal influence is the advice given to young writers never to use the same word twice in a sentence—or within 20 lines or other limit. . . . There are few literary faults so widely prevalent . . .
H.W. Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage 148 (2d ed., Ernest Gowers, ed., Oxford U. Press 1965).

I agree. Using synonyms for the sake of variation is not recommended in legal writing.

Better Legal Writing
Writing for the Legal Audience

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