Plain Language

Nuts to Further Affiant Sayeth Naught


by Joseph Kimble
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‘‘Plain Language’’ is a regular feature of the Michigan Bar Journal, edited by Joseph Kimble for the Plain English Subcommittee of the Publications and Website Advisory Committee. We seek to improve the clarity of legal writing and the public opinion of lawyers by eliminating legalese. Want to contribute a plain-English article? Contact Prof. Kimble at Thomas Cooley Law School, P.O. Box 13038, Lansing, MI 48901. For information about the Plain English Committee, see our website—http://www.michbar.org/generalinfo/plainenglish/home.cfm.

References
Barbara Child, Drafting Legal Documents: Principles and Practices 79 (2d ed. 1992): ‘‘There is no need [in an affidavit] to add the gratuitous traditional tagline of legalese: Further affiant sayeth naught.’’
Bryan A. Garner, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage 378 (2d ed. 1995): ‘‘American lawyers frequently end affidavits with some variation of this sentence: ‘Further affiant sayeth not.’ This sentence gives rise to three stylistic dilemmas: first, is it sayeth or saith; second, is it not or naught; and third, is the sentence necessary at all?...Among American lawyers who use the phrase, sayeth predominates; among American lawyers who rightly pride themselves on their style, the phrase does not appear at all....The predominant form [between not and naught] is Further affiant sayeth not. But this is nonsense, because it is literally translatable as, ‘The affiant says not further’....The form with naught, by contrast, makes literal sense....[But t]he best choice, stylistically speaking, is to use these phrases not.’’
Thomas R. Haggard, Legal Drafting: Process, Techniques, and Exercises 320 (2003): ‘‘Another form of legalese consists of antique phrases like...Further affiant [or deponent] sayeth not.’’
David Mellinkoff, Legal Writing: Sense and Nonsense 134 (1982): ‘‘Further affiant sayeth [or saith] not—often the last line of an affidavit. Adds nothing to sense. Delete and stop.’’
Wayne Schiess, What Plain English Really Is, 9 Scribes J. Legal Writing 43, 71 (2003–2004) (forthcoming): ‘‘This is the profession in which no lawyer would speak to a jury in complex and jargon-filled legalese, but if asked to write an affidavit for someone on that jury, the same lawyer wouldn’t hesitate to use the phrase Further affiant sayeth naught.’’


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