The need for a common approach to legal English in the Netherlands

Every so often I come across someone else in the Netherlands who is also quite experienced in assisting Dutch legal professionals and also quite confident of their positions on legal terminology, grammar, good legal style, and so on. They may not have the same qualifications or background that I do, but they have obviously considered… Read more

Avoiding “shall”

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English-speaking legal-writing experts agree that the use of “shall” by English-speaking lawyers is a mess. They also agree that the irregular, inconsistent and unclear use of “shall” is leading to misunderstanding and unnecessary litigation. Despite their agreement about the nature of the problem, the experts are divided on what to do about it. Some (including… Read more

Avoiding “as of”

Great care should be taken in translating time-related prepositions (voorzetsels) like vanaf, tot en met and per. It doesn’t help that some of the English expressions are not clear at all. For example, “as of” (like its British cousin “as at”) is used all the time by English speakers — but in various, often unclear… Read more

Avoiding clichés

“Clichés should generally be used sparingly in any writing, but especially in legal writing”, writes Bryan Garner in Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage. Similar warnings are given to Dutch writers. Garner lists dozens of clichés in his legal style guides. Almost all English style guides have a section on the subject (including The Economist’s). The… Read more

Drafted clause makeover #2

Reviewing a limitation-of-liability clause from a Dutch commercial contract Let’s take a close look at another problematic clause from a Dutch contract drafted in English. Here is a typical limitation-of-liability clause (exoneratieclausule), taken at random from a Dutch judgment: Except in the case of gross negligence or wilful misconduct from X, the liability of X… Read more


An English-speaking lawyer working with Dutch legal professionals soon notices that certain English words tend to be overused and used in ways that do not seem conventional. One of those words is “legalise” or “legalisation”.  (Some would spell this as “legalize” and “legalization”, especially in the US.) Legalise = to make lawful In everyday English,… Read more