Is Your Writing Verbose and Redundant?

By Ian Pisarcik, Legal Publications Attorney Editor

If you were to assemble together people from the general public, most would agree that lawyers are not very concise. Further, they would likely agree that the verbosity found in most legal texts should be completely eliminated. If the problems with the italicized words in this paragraph are obvious to you, you may possibly defy this stereotype. If you haven’t yet discovered the issue with the italicized words, you may want to review the following list of redundant phrases. Of course, there are hundreds more, but this should get you started in your quest to totally annihilate redundancies from your writing.

  • Advance planning: All planning must be done in advance.
  • By and between: Between alone suffices.
  • Free and clear: As Judge Mark Painter notes, “Free and clear mean the same thing. Free is English; clear is from the French clere. After the Norman Conquest, English courts were held in French. The Normans were originally Vikings, but after they conquered the region of Normandy, they became French; then they took over England. But most people in England, surprisingly enough, still spoke English. So lawyers started using two words for one and forgot to stop for the last nine hundred years.”
  • Increasingly inevitable: A war may be certain or uncertain, but not increasingly certain.
  • Null and void or null and of no effect: Another example of what lawyer and author Bryan Garner calls “amplification by synonym.”
  • Off of: Don’t bother taking something off of the table. Just take it off the table and be done with it.
  • Revert back: Nothing reverts forward, except maybe Michael J. Fox in a DeLorean.
  • Temporary respite: As opposed to permanent respite?
  • Very unique: As the late writer David Foster Wallace notes, this phrase is “at best redundant and at worst stupid.”
  • Will and testament: Yet another common mixed language doublet.

Totally eEliminating doublets from your writing will make your writing it less verbose and redundant, and maybe keep your readers from falling asleep.