The University of Chicago Press,
Exercises from LEGAL WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH, Bryan A. Garner

§ 15. Simplify wordy phrases. Watch out for of.



Revise these sentences to minimize prepositions:

  • Jenkins knew of the existence of the access port of the computer.
  • This Court did not err in issuing its order of dismissal of the claims of Plaintiff.
  • Courts have identified a number of factors as relevant to a determination of whether the defendant's use of another's registered trademark is likely to cause a state of confusion, mistake, or deception.
  • One way in which a private party can act preemptively to protect the enforceability of the rest of the provisions of a contract, in the face of one void provision, is to insert a severability clause.
  • Any waiver of any of the provisions of this Agreement by any party shall be binding only if set forth in an instrument signed on behalf of that party.


Revise the following passages to minimize prepositions:

  • Henry II had genius of a high order, which never manifested itself more clearly than in his appreciation of the inevitability of the divergence of the paths of crime and of tort, and in his conception of crimes as offenses against the whole community.
  • The recognition of the propriety of a court's overruling its own decisions places those decisions on the plane of merely persuasive authority and causes our theory of judicial precedent to be substantially like the theory held on the continent of Europe.
  • Penfold had no knowledge of the amount of money paid--and could not have had knowledge of this--in advance of Penfold's review of its financial position in 2000. Thus, Penfold's profit-sharing is neither deserving of nor subject to the protections of Title III.
  • In the case of R.E. Spriggs Co. v. Adolph Coors Co., 94 Cal. App. 3d 419 (Cal. Ct. App. 1979), the Court of Appeal of California addressed the estoppel effect of a cease-and-desist order. The court was of the view that the trial court erred in failing to apply the doctrine of collateral estoppel, since the factual issue in dispute had been litigated and decided in an earlier case involving the enforcement of an FTC cease-and-desist order.
  • One or both of the aspects of the function of the court must suffer. Either consideration of the merits of the actual controversy must yield to the need of detailed formulation of a precedent that will not embarrass future decision, or careful formulation must give way to the demand for study of the merits of the case at hand.


Find a published passage in which you can improve the style by cutting the ofs by at least half. Type the original, and then handwrite your edits so that they're easy to follow. If you're part of a writing group or class, bring a copy for each of your colleagues.

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© 2001, Bryan A. Garner

These exercises appear in Bryan A. Garner's Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text with Exercises, published by The University of Chicago Press and available at bookstores and on the Web at