Legal Writing Tip: Common Usage Errors, Continued

Savannah Blackwell

legal-writing-JUlHere are more commonly confused words and expressions:

E.g or I.e.?

The first stands for the Latin expression exempli gratia and means “for example,” such as in the following sentence: “Vitamin B is found in a number of vegetables, e.g., sweet potatoes, carrots, and winter squashes.”

“Etc.” should never appear after “e.g.,” because what follows “e.g.” is to be understood as a partial list.
I.e. is an abbreviation for id est and means “that is.”

I.e. should not be used for listing examples. Think of the term instead as meaning “in essence” or “in other words.” Use it to clarify your meaning, or make your point in a different way: “He is running for President of the United States, i.e., the highest elected office in the country.”

Neither phrase should be italicized, as both have become part of the standard lexicon. When using e.g. or i.d. in the middle of a sentence, put the term in lower case and set it off with commas, unless what follows is a standalone sentence. In that case, place a semicolon before the phrase, and a comma after it.

Farther or Further?

Historically, the two words have been used interchangeably. As adverbs referring to spatial, temporal, or figurative distances, they continue to be so. But their paths are starting to diverge when used as adjectives.

“Farther” is now used more often to refer to physical distances, e.g., “the farther milepost,” while “further” has taken on the meaning of “in addition,” e.g., “no further explanation needed.”

Forego or Forgo?

Forego means “to precede,” “to go before,” as in, “the foregoing argument.”
Forgo, however, means “to give up,” “to go without,” as in “to forgo trial rights.”
Note that some legal writing experts consider “foregoing” a lawyerism best forgone.

Impact, Impactful

“Impact” started out as a noun meaning, “a powerful or major influence or effect.” Recently, a lot of us have been using it as a verb in lieu of words like “affect” and “influence.” Prominent stylists advise us to avoid the trend. One of them has said, somewhat acidly, “to reserve `impacted’ for wisdom teeth.”

“Impactful” is a hideous, jargon-y, and vague word deriving from use of impact as a verb, and appearing sometimes in place of “influential” or “powerful.” What does “impactful” really mean? “Full of impact?”

Since “impact” is really about one thing’s effect on another, “impactful” as a stand-alone word doesn’t make sense. So let us expel it, dismiss it, and drive it away completely.

About the author:

Savannah Blackwell is a former news reporter who covered government and politics for more than a decade, mostly in San Francisco. She became a licensed California attorney in 2010 and specializes in legal research and writing. She can be reached at savannah.blackwell@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SavannahBinSF.