As someone who has taught legal writing and legal research in law school, the Law Pundit is (very) sympathetic to Eugene Volokh’s attempts to drive “legalese” out of written legal materials.
However, we think that Volokh’s suggestions sometimes go too far and that some of his “simplifications” may actually affect questions of individual – and important – “elements of style“.
So we separated Volokh’s list of Legalese into two lists – one list of verbose words (legalese) and one list of nonverbose words (non-legalese) – and plugged these into The Gender Genie.
Many persons may think that the Gender Genie has no value, but our experience is that it does in fact measure “something”, even if people do not like its main assertion that “gender” is or can be reflected in the writer’s choice of words.
Here are The Gender Genie results:
VOLOKH’S VERBOSE LIST (LEGALESE)
a large number of a number of accord accord respect to acquire additional additionally adjacent to advert to afforded aforementioned
ambit any and all approximately ascertain assist at present at the place at the present time at this point in time at this time
attempt because of the fact that cease cease and desist circumstances in which cognizant of commence conceal concerning the
matter of consensus of opinion consequence contiguous to demonstrate desire despite the fact that does not operate donate due to
the fact that during the course of during the time that echelon elucidate endeavor evince excessive number exclusively exit facilitate
firstly secondly for the duration of for the purpose of doing for the reason that forthwith frequently fundamental has a negative impact
I would argue that it is arguable that it could be argued that in a case in which in accordance with in an X manner in close proximity
in light of the fact that in order to in point of fact in reference to in regard to in the course of in the event that indicate
individual (noun) person inquire is able to is binding on is desirous of is dispositive of is unable to it has been determined that it is
apparent that it is clear that it should be noted that locate manner methodology modify negatively affect notify notwithstanding null
and void numerous objective observe obtain on a number of occasions on the part of owing to the fact that period of time permit
personnel point in time portion possess prior to procure provide provided that provision of law purchase rate of speed referred toas
remainder render assistance request require retain said subsequent subsequent to subsequently substantiate sufficient sufficient
number of termination the case at bar the fact that the instant case the manner in which this case is distinguishable to the effect
that until such time as upon utilize very was aware
The Gender Genie gave the above 321 Words the following “gender” score:
Female Score: 133
Male Score: 402
VOLOKH’S NONVERBOSE LIST (NON-LEGALESE)
many some several many give respect get more also next to near mention given reach scope all about find out help now where now
now currently now currently try because stop stop when where aware knows start hide about consensus result next to show want
despite though does not give because during while level explain clarify try show too many only leave help first second during while to
do because immediately often basic hurts harms when where by under Xly near because given that to in fact about about during if
show say mean ask can binds wants disposes of cannot clearly clearly find way method change hurt harm decrease tell despite void
many goal see watch get often sometimes by because since time period let allow people time point part have before get give if but
law buy speed called rest help ask need keep the later after after later prove enough enough end this case that this case how this
case is different that until on use knew
The Gender Genie gave the above 170 Words the following “gender” score:
Female Score: 209
Male Score: 81
The reduction of “verbosity” from 321 to 170 words for the same “word message” proves Eugene’s point that much of “legalese” is just “extra” for the conveyance of meaning.
However, as a matter of style, the verbose words are “possibly” more MALE and the non-verbose words are “possibly” more FEMALE in style.
We thought that this may not have to do with “gender” per se, but verbosity may reflect a certain kind of aggressive assertiveness whereas nonverbosity may reflect a certain kind of careful reserve, so we googled “verbosity” and “gender”, giving us the following result:
“- Studies of verbosity – holding the floor means holding power
– ‘Women don’t talk as much as men in mixed company…These facts, which have been provided by numerous research findings, appear to conflict with a stereotyped image of the female as an excessive talker…’ (Spender, 1988: 148) “
We have found in the interim that there is a whole field of “gender linguistics” and that “talk time” (verbosity) is one aspect of that study. So it might be that we should be careful in artificially limiting verbosity if it is – as it appears to be – an essential element of style, and even perhaps gender. Perhaps males or assertive persons (also females) are simply more verbose.
Too much verbal “trimming” then might be a form of emasculation.
The Law Pundit would imagine that this matter could be investigated by examining the legal writings of male and female students. Indeed, the LawPundit found in the course of teaching ca. 200 students per semester that papers and examinations by females repeated succinctly and accurately what had been lectured much more so than those written by males, who tended to frame topics from within their own particular, subjective viewpoint. Indeed, the difference between male and female written work in this regard was substantial.
Hat tip to Minor Wisdom for the link to Volokh’s Legalese.