Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

10 Words That Should be Banned From the Law Office

10 wordsIn 2018, I hereby resolve to stop unpacking things.

I don’t mean luggage, car trunks or dresser drawers. Or bags of groceries. I expect to continue unpacking all of those things until I shuffle off this mortal coil.

What I mean by “unpacking” is the act of breaking down a sentence into its component words, each of which requires a new sentence – or perhaps an entire paragraph – in order to explain its actual meaning.

“Let’s unpack that.”  No, let’s not. Let’s examine it. Or talk about it. Or delve into its nuances. But for crying out loud, let’s not unpack it.

I also resolve to stop taking deep dives into anything that is not a body of water.

Call me cranky, old-fashioned or tragically unhip, but I believe the world would be a better place if some words and phrases would simply disappear.

Here are eight of them:

  • Feel like. We feel emotions. We think thoughts. Too often we confuse the two. “I feel like that would be a bad decision.” What you really mean is, “I think that would be a bad decision.” Every time this happens, I feel like slamming my head into a wall.
  • Impactful. Why turn a perfectly adequate noun into an awkward adjective by tacking ful onto its tail? We can say “Her speech was powerful” or “Her speech had a big impact.” But how is life improved by saying “Her speech was impactful?”
  • Weaponize. Here is another effort to turn a noun into something it is not (i.e. a verb) by slapping three extra letters on the end. It’s true that many serviceable verbs have been created this way (dramatize, lionize). But for me the line was crossed when my oldest child accused me of trying to “weaponize” Christmas in order to punish her for forgetting my birthday. Which of course I was doing, but with better grammar.
  •  Totally. Excuse me, but when you say “I was totally confused” do you mean “I was completely confused?” If so, I agree. Totally.
  • That thing when. That thing when you’re reading an article in The Guardian that calls this phrase “a shortcut to starring in your very own scene from Seinfeld” and an attempt to “glitter the very dullest of all the concrete: our everyday lives,” as in: That thing when you’re eating a taco and the guacamole drips out and totally ruins your shirt.  
  • Heavy lift. What’s so terrible about saying something is difficult, demanding or hard to accomplish? Oh, I forgot. Saying it’s a heavy lift makes you sound like Jake Tapper on CNN. 

·         Because internet. Because the first time I heard this phrase I had to call the same daughter who thought I was weaponizing Christmas to ask her what it meant.  Which led to her telling her friends about “that thing when your dad calls about something totally dumb.”

  • Alternative facts. This should offend anyone with a law degree. The opposite of fact is fiction, not “alternative fact.” Just as the opposite of stop is go – not “alternative stop.”

What word and phrases would you add to the list?



About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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