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Respectful Legal Writing Discards Outdated Identifiers: Professor Abrams in the Journal of the Missouri Bar

September 6th, 2016

Doug Abrams

On May 20, President Obama signed legislation that, passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, amended two federal acts that were written in the 1970s. The acts referred to persons by such names as Negro, American Indian, Oriental, Eskimo and Aleut. The new legislation strikes these names and substitutes ones such as African American, Native American, Asian American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander and Alaska Native.

In each issue of the Journal of the Missouri Bar, Professor Doug Abrams writes an article about legal writing. The July-August issue carries his article about the new bipartisan legislation. He writes that “[i]n an age when fierce partisanship divides Congress,” this unanimous legislation “teaches that respectful legal writing discards outdated identifiers of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability or challenge, or other differences among identifiable groups in American society.”

Professor Abrams concludes that writers “should not belittle respectful identifiers as ‘politically correct,’ or ‘PC.’ Law and writing emerge stronger when lawyers and judges respect personal dignity. Respect is not ‘politically’ correct; it is simply correct.”

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