Lawyers could learn a thing or two from Val Van Brocklin, who argues that “cop talk” hurts officers’ credibility on the stand, probably because nobody can understand what the heck they are talking about. She suggests cops should make up flash cards to help them learn English again.
Make up some flash cards. On one side, write a phrase or sentence the way you now talk on the stand. On the other side, write the same phrase in plain English. Have one of your kids work with you with your flash cards. It’ll be a nice Hallmark family moment. I’ll help you get started.
- He indicated… He said
- I have been employed by… I worked for
- I exited the patrol vehicle… I got out of the car
- I observed… I saw
- I ascertained the location of the residence… I found the house
- I proceeded to the vicinity of… I went to
- I approached the entrance… I went to the door
- The subject approached me… She came up to me
- I apprehended the perpetrator… I arrested the man
- I obtained an item that purported to be an envelope from the individual… I got the envelope from her
- I observed the subject fleeing on foot from the location… I saw him running away
Lawyers might want to do the same. At some point during or just before law school, lawyers have a tendency to use big words and complicated, double-subjunctive passive sentence structure in place of good old plain English. “Use” becomes “utilize” and “even though” becomes “irregardless” (not a word).
When it comes to credibility and persuasion, cops and lawyers would do well to drop the pretension and start talking like human beings again.
(photo: Wikimedia Commons)