Paralegal Writing- 15 Words and Phrases You May be Using Wrong

Paralegal Writing

Paralegal Writing- 15 Words and Phrases You May be Using Wrong

You’ve  been speaking and writing your whole life and are pretty sure that you have a firm grasp of the English language, so you might be surprised to find out that many people use some common words and phrases wrong, and you may be one of them.


1. Affect vs. Effect

Affect is a verb and means to impress or produce a change in.

“Her father’s death affected her deeply”.


Effect is a noun and means something that is produced, or a result.

“The people’s protests had no effect on the decision made by the legislature.”


2. Advice vs. Advise

Advice is a noun and means an opinion or recommendation.

“I could really use an attorney’s advice on this matter.”


Advise is a verb and means to offer an opinion or recommendation.

“I would advise you to comply with the Court order.”


3. Lay vs. Lie

Lay means to set down.

“Just lay those on my desk please.”


Lie means to recline in a horizontal position.

“I need to lie down.”


4. Disinterested vs. Uninterested

Disinterested means unbiased by personal interest or advantage.

“A Will must be witnessed by a disinterested party.”


Uninterested means having no interest in.

“I am uninterested in personal injury law.”


5. Imply vs. Infer

Imply means to indicate something without actually saying it.

“I did not mean to imply that you are not paying your child support.”


Infer means to derive by reasoning, to guess, or to speculate.

“From our last conversation, I inferred that you were not paying your child support.”


6. “Come now” vs. “Comes Now”

Many pleadings begin with “Come now” or “Comes now”, but how do you know which one to use? Simple, one person comes and two or more people come. So if you have single defendant, you would say “Comes now the defendant…” if you have more than one defendant, you would say “Come now the defendants…”


7. Alot vs. “A lot”

Alot is not a word and should never be used. The correct term is “a lot”.


8. Regardless vs. Irregardless

You should always say regardless, as irregardless is not a word.


9. Less vs. Fewer

Less means smaller in size, amount, or degree.

“He has less money since the divorce.”


Fewer means of a smaller number.

“A Tweet must be 160 characters or fewer.”


10. Mute vs. Moot

Mute means to be silent or give an irrelevant response.

“The defendant stood mute at his arraignment.”


Moot means undecided by a Court, or debatable.

“That is a moot point.”


11. Then vs. Than

Then is an adverb used to indicate time.

“Prices were lower back then.”


Than is a conjunction, used to introduce a comparative or an alternative.

“She is taller than I am.”


12. Who vs. Whom

Who is a pronoun that means what person or persons.

“Who was that on the phone?”


Whom is also a pronoun, but it is the objective case of who.

“With whom were you speaking?”

Deciding whether who or whom is correct can be very difficult, but a complete guide can be found at Choosing when to Use Who and Whom.


13. That vs. Which

That and which are both pronouns used to indicate a specific person, thing, idea, or concept. It can be difficult at time to determine whether to use that or which and one must understand the different between restrictive and non-restrictive elements. For a complete lesson on this, and on whether to use that or which in a sentence, see When to Use That or Which


14. Continuous vs. Continual

Continuous means uninterrupted in time.

“She has had continuous custody of the children since the father went to jail.”


Continual means of regular or frequent occurrence.

“He has exercised continual visitation with the children.”


15. “Supposed to” vs. “Suppose to”

“Suppose to” is incorrect and you should always say “supposed to”.

About Shelley Riseden

Shelley M. Riseden is a freelance paralegal providing research, document preparation, and writing services to both attorneys and non-attorneys. She is an expert at conducting legal research and has a natural ability to grasp complex legal issues.Phone: 765.667.5139, E-mail: or, Skype: shelley.riseden, Yahoo: Virtually_Legal


  1. Sheila Berry says:

    Don’t you mean “15 words or phrases you may be using INCORRECTLY?”

    • Haha, good point, Sheila. Titling a blog post is a balance between proper grammar and the keywords that people might search to find the post though, so sometimes, titles aren’t as grammatically correct as they could be.

  2. Very helpful!

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