We all know better than to rely only on a spellchecker, but in case you need more motivation, here are some humorous word mistakes from real documents prepared by real lawyers. (I’ve removed identifying details.)
The staff from Surgical Services, Medical Services, and Pharmacy, as well as all the patients and visitors, observed the bazaar behavior.
- The word should be bizarre.
This action is nothing more than another viscous attack by Plaintiff against its adversaries’ attorneys.
- Viscous means thick and sticky in consistency. The writer should use vicious (or maybe should attack the merits instead of describing the plaintiff’s motives).
For all intensive purposes, the Defendant did nothing more than recite the Rules of Evidence at length.
- The proper phrase here is intents and purposes.
When Chief Kearl was appraised of the situation, he ordered the evacuation, and notice was posted at the property.
- The right word here is apprised.
Scholars may criticize the Court for failing to apply strict scrutiny in some cases, such as those suggesting unconscious racism, but they do not hone in on the cost of deploying it.
- The long-standing and preferred phrase here is home in on.*
*The original phrase (home in) comes from the following meaning of home: “to return home” (like a homing pigeon) or to “be guided toward a destination or target.”1 It’s easy to see why hone, meaning “to sharpen”2 seems to make sense, but two prominent word-usage experts insist the phrase should be home in:
Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century 274 (2014).
Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 412 (3d ed. 2011).
1. The Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus: American Edition 701 (1996).
2. Id. at 703.