FOR GUIDANCE ON LEGAL WRITING
An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers
It is ironic, is it not, that 'legal language' quite often seems opaque and all too often is so; unfortunate too, as the law is based on words, forms of words, meanings of words and their interpretation, connotation and usage. One wonders how often cases have been initiated, then won or lost because someone or other has misconstrued or misinterpreted some word or other - or some phrase or other.
If you're a lawyer, legal scholar, student, or generally someone who is fascinated by the power of language and who seeks to speak and write with clarity, precision and force, Garner's Dictionary of Legal Usage is the resource for you. Here it is from the Oxford University Press in a new enlarged and updated third edition and a remarkable work of lexicography it is.
But it's not just a dictionary. It also functions as an authoritative guide to style, grammar and usage. As you look up each word, you are offered not just a definition, but a discussion of its significance, its origins, indeed all its aspects pertaining to law, complete with meticulously cited sources.
Prolifically and painstakingly (and often entertainingly) the learned editor, Bryan A Garner, internationally acknowledged as a top authority on legal usage, seeks to blow away the cobwebs of complexity and confusion which may surround any number of terms.
'Testatorial, testorial, testatory' is an example. What's the difference? What is the most common form? Is there a reference to the OED? Look these up if you wish to know. You'll find them just before the word 'testatrix', which the editor quite rightly has a down on. 'This word is useless,' he growls. 'testator quite properly referring to men and women alike. See SEXISM.' Well - you've been told, haven't you? And you have been referred onward toward further research as well.
It's a comprehensive, erudite and easy to use resource which lawyers and laymen alike will find invaluable. Synonyms, for example, are precisely differentiated and defined and such areas of law as immigration, intellectual property are discussed in the clear light of day. Ooops... we shouldn't have said that! Garner and his team have provided a pungent entry on the matter of clichés and overused words which ideally we must avoid, although some of our pet hates have been left out like 'iconic' and 'going forward.' These will no doubt surface in the next edition!
Usefully, the orientation of this dictionary (of almost 1,000 pages) is transatlantic. So whether your practice is in the UK or North America, this is certainly an indispensable guide to writing or editing legal documents, books or articles with enhanced clarity, accuracy and style. The publication date is July 2011.show more
by Phillip Taylor MBE