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

§ 5. Omit needless words.



Delete at least four consecutive words in the following sentences, replace those words with just one word. You may rephrase ideas and rearrange sentences, but don't change the meaning.

  • Even assuming that the fog caused injury to Roelke, Amskills had no duty to prevent that injury because it was idiosyncratic and Amskills could not have been expected to foresee such injury.
  • At no time prior to the initial public offering did the underwriters or any officers, directors, or employees have knowledge of any facts that would suggest that "Palm Harbor" could not be completed on schedule and in accordance with specifications.
  • Beale has wholly failed to allege facts that, if true, would establish that competition among the nation's law schools would be reduced or that the public has been in any way injured, and this failure to allege facts that would establish an injury to competition warrants the dismissal of her restraint-of-trade claim.
  • The Business Corporation Law does not address the ability of a New York corporation to indemnify individuals who are not its employees.
  • The court examined a number of cases and stated that there appeared to be only a limited number of instances in which there would exist a duty to disclose the illegal conduct of persons who, through political campaigns, seek election to a public office.


Revise the following sentences to make them as lean as you can without changing the meaning:

  • The County sent an inspector who made observations as to the condition of the sidewalk and concluded that it was uneven.
    Although a review of the caselaw reflects that there are no decisions in the Eleventh Circuit concerning this issue, the great weight of federal authority favors the exclusion of third parties from a Rule 35 independent medical examination.
  • There is caselaw for the proposition that use restrictions are not always strictly enforced when a lease is assigned by a tenant in bankruptcy and the property in question is not part of a shopping center.
  • The court appeared to premise much of its opinion upon the argument that consumers stand at a significant disadvantage in product-liability actions based on ordinary negligence principles. Consequently, strict product liability was intended to relieve the plaintiff of the burden of having to prove actual negligence.
  • With respect to matters not covered by the provisions of the Uniform Rules for the New York Court of Claims (the Uniform Rules), the Court of Claims adheres to the rules set forth in the Civil Practice Law and Rules (the CPLR). Ct. Cl. R. § 206.1(c). Because the Uniform Rules do not discuss disclosure of expert witnesses, it follows that the Court of Claims' rules on the subject are governed by the CPLR.
  • There are cases that are factually similar to the present case, but that are controlled by older statutes--i.e., the pre-1965 legislative scheme. There are no cases that have been explicitly decided under § 1511 since the 1965 amendment, so it is unclear what effect the amendment has on cases that are factually similar to the present case.
  • Arbitration as a means of settling disputes was at first viewed by the courts with much disfavor, but today is being used increasingly as a substitute for litigation for the adjudication of disputes arising out of contracts.
  • The court rejected the defendant's argument that the headlines were not the product of sufficient skill or effort, finding that because many of the headlines consisted of eight or so words that imparted information, copying of the headlines might at least in some instances constitute copyright infringement.
  • To say that one who has contracted to serve for a number of years at a low salary or at distasteful work and seeks to better his or her condition by a contract with another party should be penalized in every case by inability to enforce this second contract seems harsh, and under these or other extenuating circumstances, the courts have often deemed damages to be sufficient recompense to the injured employer without also invalidating the second contract.


Rewrite the following 193-word paragraph in fewer than 130 words without changing the meaning:

In addition to the two cases cited just above, both (as mentioned) dealing with the California State Bar Rules of Conduct, Rule 3-310 of the California State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct describes circumstances in which an attorney is embroiled in the representation of adverse interests. Rule 3-310 is concerned primarily with situations in which the attorney's duty of loyalty and duty of confidentiality to clients are called into question. Therefore, to date, there are no Rule 3-310 cases disqualifying a district attorney as a result of a prosecution of an individual whom the district attorney used or is used as a witness in another prosecution. Most cases that involve district-attorney conflicts under Rule 3-310 consist of a former attorney-client relationship between an accused and a district attorney. In such cases, the rule serves to protect an accused from a prosecution in which a district attorney unfairly benefits from information gained during the course of his or her representation of the accused. Other Rule 3-310 cases involve overzealous prosecutions in cases where a district attorney is for one reason or another personally or emotionally interested in the prosecution of the accused.


Find a wordy sentence that you can reliably cut in half without changing the meaning. Cut it. If you're a member of a writing group or class, bring a copy of the before-and-after versions for each colleague.

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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