MSCD 5: Doing Away with “Studiously Foppish”

In this post I consider how, with help, I’ve gone about improving the prose of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting. It so happens that this week I had occasion to address a single fix among the many.

In this post on LinkedIn, MSCD reader Steven Mirsky says he was baffled by the word allonge and was gratified to have MSCD say that the word allonge is “obscure and studiously foppish.” That prompted this comment: “What is “foppish”?! I have learned that big words ≠ big brain.” Here’s how I responded, in this post:

Hi. You have a point about “foppish”. I’ve thought about the words I use.

I enjoy the vast assortment of words the English language offers the writer. I’ve read a fair amount, so I have access to many of those words.

For my casual writing (primarily on my blog), I write in part to entertain myself. Limiting myself to a vocabulary that everyone would understand would make things drab. If someone doesn’t understand a word or phrase, it wouldn’t kill them to google it.

But I recognize that my playfulness could get annoying, so generally I restrain myself. For example, I hardly ever use the French words and phrases that come to mind, even though they might be le mot juste! 🙂

And I’ve come to realize that my book A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting requires even more restraint. In it, I have to make accessible a whole bunch of complexity. Anything that might seem smart-alecky wouldn’t be helpful.

Next week the fifth edition of MSCD goes to the printer. In preparing the manuscript, I spent a lot of time paring down the prose. In the process, “studiously foppish” didn’t make the cut—it’s too mannered.

Thank you for providing me an opportunity to say a few not-foppish (I hope) words about this.

To elaborate a bit, the problem with studiously foppish is that with it, the wisenheimer blogger sticks his head in where he doesn’t belong. I indulge in that sort of tone only a couple of times in MSCD, where it’s truly merited.

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.

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