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A dictionary of modern legal usage

Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1987.
Physical Description:
xviii, 587 pages ; 24 cm
Acknowledgments -- Introductions -- Classified guide -- Pronunciation guide -- List of abbreviations -- The Dictionary -- Select bibliography.
Geographic Term:
Electronic Access:
French equivalent / Équivalent français https://bac-lac.on.worldcat.org/oclc/423266159
Publisher description http://catdir.loc.gov/catdir/enhancements/fy0635/87013276-d.html


Call Number
349.73 GAR

On Order



The ideal companion to standard legal references

In recent years, the need for clarity and precision in legal writing has been the subject of increasing attention. Until now, however, the unwieldy body of legal usage has remained uncollected and unscrutinized in any systematic way. The first comprehensive guide to style and usage for the legal writer, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage provides accessible, authoritative, and up-to-date information that will enable lawyers, judges, students, scholars, and those who work in other fields concerned with legal language--such as journalism, medicine, business, and finance--to make their legal writing as clear and precise as possible by resolving questions of phraseology, diction, grammar, and style. The entries, arranged alphabetically, discuss distinctions among variant forms of legal terms, expose common pitfalls in legal writing, and include brief essays on such special topics as metaphors, sexism, clichés, initialese, misspellings, preferred spellings, Latinisms, grammar, and distinctions of meaning. In addition, the entries are highlighted with illustrations from such sources as judicial opinions, statutes, briefs, and law review articles. While the focus of the dictionary is on American usage, this is augmented by numerous examples of British usage where appropriate; moreover, Garner discusses legal words not to be found in other dictionaries.
Modern Legal Usage is the ideal companion to standard law dictionaries and fills an important gap in the existing legal reference literature.

* offers comprehensive coverage and alphabetically arranged entries
* contains over 6,000 headwords
* provides a guide to pronunciation
* gives clear, concise definitions
* distinguishes between legal words that are closely related
* discusses topics of interest to legal writers
* lists preferred spellings
* includes brief essays on points of grammar
* uses numerous examples from legal documents
* incorporates abundant cross-references


BRYAN A. GARNER is currently Visiting Associate Professor of Law at the University of Texas, Austin. Educated at the University of Texas at Austin and at Oxford University, he was an associate editor of Texas Law Review and clerked for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He is a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas, the Fifth Circuit Bar Association, the Southwestern Legal Foundation, and the American Judicature Society.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The well-received Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage (1987) has been updated in this superior second edition. This dictionary of law usage and etymology, not just definitions, is written in a clear and concise style. The number of entries has almost doubled from the first edition, and additional illustrative quotations have been added with complete citations. New terms in this edition include remote relatives, reverse discrimination, gray mail, shadow jury, lynch law, and misconduct in the office. The entries are arranged alphabetically, interspersed with brief essays on issues of style, grammar and usage, legal lexicology, word formation, and punctuation. The initial words of these essays are capitalized to set them apart. So, for example, there is both a definition of forbid, forbade, forbidden with four quotations from cases or other law books and a discussion of forbidden words and phrases with a list of useless words--irregardless, wheresoever, etc. It is unfortunate that the introduction from the first edition was not reprinted in the new volume since it describes the purposes of the book--perhaps the most important is "to make legal writers sensitive to the aesthetic possibilities of their prose, to goad them into thinking more acutely about what works in a given context, and what does not." Even libraries that have the first edition should consider this new one, which is highly recommended for any law collection in public or academic libraries. (Reviewed Feb. 15, 1996)

Choice Review

The second edition is an impressive enhancement of the original edition (CH, Apr'88), although the book jacket's claim that the work is "more than double the length and coverage of the original" is not quite met. The average length of definitions in the first and second editions is remarkably similar (92 and 94 words respectively). The first edition defines approximately 4,200 terms, the second about 7,230. Nevertheless, the work has clearly been improved. The entry for "habeas corpus" can serve as a fine example; in the first edition the term was dispatched in four lines, whereas the second edition provides 27 lines, including historical background. Many other terms have been similarly enhanced. Puzzling is the omission of "sexual harassment"; the first edition includes an entry under "harass" but omits a separate entry for "harassment," while in the second edition under "sex," readers are referred to "sexual," but again there is no "sexual harassment." The second edition provides an entry under "harassment," referring to the Senate hearings on the appointment of Justice Clarence Thomas. In a new feature, the second edition includes thousands of quotes as examples (all with full citations) selected from cases, books, and "other sources." A substantial number of see references are incorporated. Some terms receive extended coverage. Garner writes in the preface that he has chosen the "conservative side of usage and grammar," which he calls "informed conservatism." Garner's approach to legal language makes this resource essential to law and social science collections and to all levels of readers, including lawyers. G. R. Walden; Ohio State University

Library Journal Review

Like the superb first edition (LJ 9/15/87), this new version of A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage is loaded with well-documented (and even witty) definitions and examples of legal usage. With hundreds of new entries the dictionary now lists some 9000 legal words and phrases, including some Latin terms. It has also been widely updated and expanded to include several thousand new illustrative quotations, most of them cited to judicial opinions. A former lawyer and law professor and now a highly respected consultant on legal writing, Garner advises on "the many grammatical and stylistic questions that arise in legal writing." Many of these are problems of usage unique to law. This is primarily a guide to American usage, but American and British differences are carefully distinguished. Legal writers in particular will benefit from the information and advice here, and for readers, too, it makes an excellent supplement to law dictionaries. This dictionary sets the standard for legal usage. It is absolutely indispensable for law libraries, lawyers, and judges, and a wonderful addition to all academic and public library reference collections.‘Mary Jane Brustman, SUNY at Albany Libs. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.