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Don't Let Your Message Get Derailed

Updated: May 12, 2021

English language has many variants. In addition to British English and American English, there are language variants involving English being mixed up with other languages. For example, Hunglish is the language variant where more or less Hungarian sentence patterns are used, with more or less properly selected English words, in intending to convey the message in English. Probably you have already seen an English text which you were sure to have been written by – say – a German, or a Hungarian person. It just feels. Odd sentence patterns. Improper prepositions. When you read it, you raise your eyebrows and say "the what?".


Hunglish and other ...lish variants come at various levels:


- beginners cannot depart from using their mother tongue when wording their English sentences: the sentence patterns are largely directly come from their mother tongue, and the terms they use are generally also chosen improperly,


- those with medium level command of English generally use English sentence patterns, with some improper terms, and with some rigidity in text creation,


- those with near-native command of English use properly selected English sentence patterns, and properly selected terms, and also their texts have a natural flow, flexibility and rythm.


Poor communication can derail major projects and the career of those involved, lawyers and legal translators alike.


In the preface to the book entitled 'A Practical Guide to English for Law', Adrian Briggs Professor of Private International Law at Oxford University wrote: ”Accuracy in the use of English as lawyers understand it, that is, in the use of English for lawyers, is central to the success of any lawyer who seeks to express himself or herself, or a client’s intentions, in writing. Inaccuracy in the use of legal English is always unfortunate, usually expensive, and sometimes disastrous. As soon as lawyers start to puzzle over or find problems with the English, trouble cannot be far away. Assured use is what one needs; nothing else will do.”


Of course, the message is best delivered at near-native level of English. Then no eyebrows will be raised.


The only way to avoid being a ...lish writer is to use English sentence patterns, and in particular legal English sentence patterns. What are sentence patterns?


The "court + awards + damages" kind of thing. Let us take the example of terms and expressions in the context of "winning at a lawsuit":


person + is allowed + court decision

for example: In the first case, plaintiff was allowed an injunction against the company's activities.

person + is allowed + remedy

for example: The citizen is allowed a remedy against the wrongdoer personally.

person + is awarded + result

for example: He was awarded damages for fraudulent misrepresentations.

person + is awarded + judgment

for example: The plaintiff is awarded final judgment on its claims for relief in the sum of (sum).

person + is awarded + fees

for example: The plaintiff is awarded attorneys fees in the amount of (sum) and costs of (sum).

person + obtain + court decision

for example: The defendant obtained a decree nisi and later was granted an order for alimony.

person + have + item + verb3

for example: The president, who was fined for his imprisonment of the judge, had his money returned by Congress many years later.

person + receive + result

for example: The plaintiff received damages for lost wages and lost fringe benefits.

person + receive + court decision

for example: The worker sought and received judgment for his pay.

Court-focus

Key terms and sentence patterns denoting winning a case with a focus on court include:

court + allow + person + action

for example: The court allowed him a standing objection.

there + is allowed + person + by court + result

for example: If the plaintiff shall recover, there shall be allowed him by the court a reasonable attorney's fee.

jury + return + court decision + for person + in the amount of (sum)

for example: The jury returned a judgment for the respondent in the amount of (sum).

court + adjudge + title + to be + in person

for example: The court had adjudged the title to a piece of land to be in the defendant.

court + adjudge + to person + relief

for example: The court shall adjudge to the plaintiff such relief, by way of injunction.

court + allow + recovery of costs + to person

for example: The court may allow the recovery of full costs to the prevailing party.

court + allow + action + to be made

for example: The court allowed the amendment to be made in this court.

court + award + sum

for example: The court, in its discretion, may award reasonable attorneys' fees and costs of suit to the prevailing party.

court + award + restitution

for example: The trial court awarded the restitution sought by the State.

court + award + person + damages

for example: Upon finding an infringer liable, the court shall award such person actual damages suffered by the person as a result of the infringement.

jury + bring + in court decision + of sum + in favor + of person

for example: The jury brought in a verdict of (sum) in favor of the plaintiff upon his claim, and a verdict of no cause for action on the defendant's counterclaim.

court person + enter + court decision + for sum + for person

for example: The clerk on request of the plaintiff shall enter judgment for the net amount and costs against the defendant.

jury + reach + court decision + of sum + in favor + of person

for example: The jury reached a verdict of (sum) in favor of the plaintiff.

jury + return + court decision + of sum + for person

for example: The jury returned a verdict of (sum) for injured employee.

jury + return + court decision + for person + in the amount of (sum)

for example: The jury returned a judgment for the respondent in the amount of (sum).

court + grant + petition

for example: The court granted respondents’ petition to confirm the award and denied the defendant’s petition to vacate it.

court + grant + relief

for example: This court grants relief as hereinafter set forth.

Result-focus

Key terms and sentence patterns denoting winning a case with a focus on the result of proceedings include:

result + is obtained

for example: Triple damages were obtained in a suit under the Act.

sum + adjudged + to be + due

for example: If the amount adjudged to be due by the personal representative shall be increased on appeal…


remedy + is decreed

for example: Specific performance may be decreed if the goods are unique or in other proper circumstances.

result + is received + for wrong

for example: There have also been numerous cases where damages have been received for injuries caused during sport.

Court decision-focus

Key terms and sentence patterns denoting winning a case with a focus on court decisions include:

court decision + is allowed + to entity

for example: …an injunction has been allowed to the company.

court decision + is obtained

for examaple: After a decree for alimony has been obtained in the court…

court decision + is entered + for person + in sum

for example: Ordered that judgment is entered for the plaintiff in the amount of (sum) plus reasonable attorney's fees.

court decision + is granted + in favor + of person

for example: An ex-parte interim injunction was granted in favor of the plaintiff restraining the defendant from manufacturing, selling, distributing the manufacturing system.

court decision + is received

for example: After a verdict has been received, if the jury has not yet been discharged, the court may require the jury to retire again to correct its verdict or find a new one in cases of defects or insufficiency.

court decision + is rendered + for person

for example: The judgment was rendered for the plaintiffs.

The term "find for":

court + find + for person + in case + under instrument

for example: The trial court properly found for an employee in a case under the Act because there was sufficient testimony concerning the seriousness of the injuries suffered by the employee.

judge + find + for person + for sum

for example: The circuit judge found for the plaintiff and rendered judgment for her including a finding for (sum).

court decision + is found + for person

for example: A verdict was found for the plaintiff, with damages.

The term "prevail":

person + prevail + in lawsuit

for example: The public-figure plaintiff must show the falsity of the statements at issue in order to prevail in a suit for defamation.