Part 1 of 4
I recently read some writing advice offered by a capable lawyer with 10 years’ experience. The advice was offered in absolute terms, and I thought it was oversimplified. Here’s the advice with my own take.
“Never use adverbs.”
You can’t follow this advice literally. It’s not possible to write a memo or motion or brief and never use an adverb. Based on the examples the lawyer gave, what the lawyer probably meant was something more like avoid over-using adverbs. But for a sophisticated legal writer, even that advice is too simple. I’d offer something more like don’t overuse intensifiers and qualifiers in legal writing.
I’ve written about intensifiers (clearly, extremely, blatantly):
and a modified version of those three posts appeared in a Michigan Bar Journal article
I’ve also written about using qualifiers (probably, somewhat, typically):
My view is that for high-caliber, sophisticated legal writing, absolute prohibitions aren’t the best advice. Inform yourself about the advice, consider your audience and purpose, and exercise your editorial judgment.
 In fact, in an example legal document the lawyer displayed for some other point, there were three adverbs in the first four sentences. All three uses were appropriate; I’m just pointing out that it’s not reasonable to advise, “Never use adverbs.”