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November 03, 2011


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I don't mind these words when they serve a purpose. I hate them when they don't. Over 70% of the time (my random estimate), they add nothing to a sentence.

Joe Miller

(Encourage is much better. And, for me, incent is also fine. But incentivize is gross.)



Ron Clark

pedagogical and eleemosynary - please use only for fun

Jim Gibson

Never utilize Utilize when you could use Use, unless you're playing Scrabble.

But there's nothing wrong with fancy schmancy words like Moreover and Furthermore, if used appropriately. When there is a transition between two related thoughts, a word like that can be indispensable.

I also like the term "fancy schmancy."


Unworthy Conversant

"Rules and standards," in pretty much all iterations. (Channeling my inner Schlag here.)
"Instant" as a substitute for "present" or "this."
"Reasonable" when it means "whatever I feel like, regardless of how unreasonable that is."

And perhaps my (anti-)favorite: "We will consider all applicants" when it means "If you weren't rich enough to attend in the Ivy League, we MIGHT hire you as a janitor."

Bridget Crawford

Seminal. It causes me to giggle every time.

John Kang

"Seminal. It causes me to giggle every time."


Tim Zinnecker

"In the event that ..."

How about a simple "if"?

Jacqui Lipton

This isn't law specific, but for some reason I really hate it when people refer to a situation as a potential "teaching moment".

Jacqui Lipton

Oh, and in the hiring context, I really hate the term 'aspirational school' eg "We have become an aspirational school for [Candidate X]." (Presumably because X didn't end up getting an offer from [higher ranked school].)

Jacqui Lipton

Actually, I meant "teachable moment" rather than "teaching moment". I hate the term so much I can't even write it down correctly.

And also in the hiring context it really annoys me when people refer to candidates as "stellar candidates" or "rising stars". What are we, a basketball team? I'll accept sports/athletic stars and even Hollywood stars, but law professors? Really??

John Kang

"Teachable moment." You know, I have to agree with Jacqui. The phrase presents itself as a gesture of optimism; this isn't a crisis, it's a "teachable moment"!

I'm all in favor, of course, that a crisis can be an opportunity for pedagogy and enlightenment; I'm a teacher, after all. And yet--and yet--I find myself, without quite being able to rationalize why, being utterly annoyed by the term, "teachable moment."

There's something vaguely condescending and idiotically pious about it, as though every crisis, every mistake, and every tragedy, could, in theory, be mined (I want to say "twisted") for some nauseous, ameliorative lesson.

Jacqui Lipton

John - I think you've hit the nail on the head there. You have beautifully explained what it is about 'teachable moment' that bugs me so much. It does seem to trivialize some truly awful things. There must be some way of saying we could teach/learn lessons from bad situations without having to use a trite phrase like 'teachable moment'. The first time I heard it was when a colleague used it in reference to 9/11 the day after the Twin Towers were hit (I had just moved to the U.S. a few months prior and I've only ever heard the phrase used in the U.S.). It was probably a knee-jerk coping mechanism by my colleague, but it seemed jarring to me.

Marc DeGirolami

Simple. Clear. Short. Direct. I hate these words when utilized to describe writing as it should be.

And they are utilized rather than used, since there is something offensively utilitarian about the verbal ideology being promoted -- something suggesting that good writing should be evaluated in utils of 'value added.'

John Kang

Jacqui, telling example regarding 9/11; and Marc, I like your comment. Regarding the latter, I wonder if we've been conditioned as students in our legal writing classes to assume that "good writing" means the same thing as "good memo writing." That equation would tend to explain the sort of prose one often finds in law review articles: bloodless and humorless, unwitty and uninteresting, moderate and trite, even as that prose bears all of the emblems of good memo writing, even as that prose, in other words, is simple, clear, short, and direct.

I'm not against those traits--simple, clear and so on. I just wish that legal writing can aspire to be more than that. There are scholars like Stanley Fish and Bill Miller who have shown that it can, and rightfully, should.

Jacqueline Lipton

Nicely done, Marc!

Steve Griffin

Progeny. Especially common in constitutional law for some reason


"A number of" when it could just be "several."

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