Goodbye, “Magic Words”

Some readers may have noticed that in this post discussing problematic terms of art I don’t use the phrase “magic words.”

I’ve long used “magic words” as a label for dysfunctional terminology; see this 2010 blog post. But while writing my post on terms of art, I realized that although “magic words” has real snark value, it’s otherwise unhelpful. So into the dustbin it goes.

I also suspect that I won’t have use for the word “jargon.” As a label for terms of art, “jargon” has no diagnostic value.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.

5 thoughts on “Goodbye, “Magic Words””

  1. Ken:

    What word will you use to describe terms of arts from a field other than law? For example, if I write a contract that requires a vendor to include wireframes in the functions specifications that they are to develop, lots of software folks know more or less what that means. But this seems somewhat different from your dicissions thus far about terms of art as language lawyers use to accomplish drafting.


      • Ken:
        The main thing to me is to limit their use to places where they are unavoidable. If there is non-jargon that can just as easily express the same concept, I would use that instead. Technicians often use jargon and fancy words to create an impression. Getting through that makes it easier to explain the deal to a jury. It also makes it easier to find out when your business people don’t actually know what they are committing to.

        • Agreed, and yet another cultivar of jargon is the use of TLAs (three-letter acronyms). I have often asked technical people to explain what they stand for, so I can refer to them properly in a contract that others–forfend!–might have to read, and as often as not they don’t know.


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