Washington Law Review


The misuse of legal language is both rampant and problematic. This is particularly true with respect to the terminology employed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This Article begins with a general discussion of the importance of using proper legal terminology (with an emphasis on Rules terminology), followed by a discussion as to why, in spite of the problems caused by the misuse of legal terminology, such misuse persists. The Article then considers six Rules terms that should be familiar to every attorney—action, claim, averment, paper, dismissal, and judgment—and discusses the various ways in which these terms are being misused, and the problems caused thereby. The Article concludes that, in many instances, the cause of the confusion rests in the Rules themselves, suggesting a need for amendment. The Article also proposes a substantial amendment to Rule 58, the rule governing the entry of judgments, in order to allay the numerous problems currently associated with the so-called separate document requirement.

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