On Trashing Stuff

Yesterday I saw this tweet:

I’ll now proceed to TRASH IT! No, relax, I’m joking. Instead, I wish to get a little more specific.

If by trashing something Paul means consigning it to the dustbin, that would be too broad. Public discourse is enhanced when we cull bad ideas from the herd—let’s call that “legitimate trashing.” But legitimate trashing requires that you meet three requirements.

First, you have to pick your target. When considering whether to take something on in a blog post, I consider various factors. Is the trash in question noxious or just laughable? How big a soapbox does the trash purveyor possess? Does the trash in question take liberties with my work? More often than not I end up ignoring trash.

Second, you have to be in the right, and you have to demonstrate to reasonable and open-minded readers that you’re in the right. No trashing if you’re dealing with shades of gray.

And third, you have to get the tone right. You don’t have to be dry-as-dust, at least for purposes of social media: the first responsibility of the blogger is to be interesting. Depending on the target, I might permit myself some levity. Or a measure of indignation. But for academic articles, I do my best to avoid anything resembling invective.

For one example of what I hope is legitimate trashing, see today’s post on endeavours provisions. For another, see this 2019 post in which I review Bryan Garner’s book on contract drafting.

I don’t take any of this lightly. It’s a necessary part of doing what I do.

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.