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ColloquialismsLegal writing is formal writing. The primary goal is to communicate ideas clearly and efficiently. An occasional rhetorical flourish can be useful to emphasize a point, particularly in persuasive writing; however, one should not run the risk of losing or confusing important legal ideas under the weight of flowery prose. The ideas are more important than the prose. Similarly, one should not "write like one talks." We often use colorful or colloquial phrases in spoken English that are inappropriate in formal written English. Be sure to edit these phrases out of your written work, replacing them with more precise language.
Incorrect: On arriving at the scene of the crime, the officer tore up the stairs in search of the big enchilada.
Correct: On arriving at the scene of the crime, the officer ran up the stairs in search of the leader of the crime syndicate.
In the preceding example, the colloquial phrases "tore up the stairs" and "big enchilada" have more than one meaning. As a result, more precise language is more appropriate.
Incorrect: On December 12, 1992, Ms. DeWitt kicked the bucket.Also Incorrect: On December 12, 1992, Ms. DeWitt passed on to her heavenly reward.Better: Ms. DeWitt died on December 12, 1992.
In the preceding example, the first incorrect composition contains slang, which is generally inappropriate in legal or other formal writing. The second inappropriate example avoids "street talk," but goes too far in the other direction and sacrifices conciseness.
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