The main aim of this blog is to discuss matters of interest to Russian speakers who work with and draft legal documents in English, based on my experience of working as a legal editor, translator and English solicitor in a prominent Russian law firm.

16 June 2016


BACKGROUND: Peter has been in St. Petersburg for the weekend, visiting girlfriend Nadia and her daughter Anna. It's a special weekend, as Nadia and Anna are to emigrate to Canada the following Wednesday. The two days they have spent together have even exceeded Peter's already high expectations, culminating in the three of them enjoying a farewell dinner at their favourite restaurant together with Nadia's best friend Marina. After the meal, they go straight to the station from where Peter's train to Moscow is due to depart a little before midnight. From this point, the chronology of events is as follows:

11 February 2014

10 phrases in English with their roots in the sport of boxing

Boxing. To some, it deserves its traditional label of the ‘noble art’. To others, it’s licensed savagery out of place in the modern world. Whichever view you take, it’s hard to disagree with the noted British sports journalist James Lawton, who wrote: “Always brutal, often bloody, and occasionally lethal, boxing has inspired some of the greatest writers and film-makers in history, and produced more legends than any other sport.” It has also left its mark on the language, too, so let’s look at ten phrases that have their roots in the fight game.

Alternatives to Latin words and phrases

I have a presentation I give sometimes about writing English in a legal context, and one of the pieces of advice I offer in it is to avoid Latin words where possible. It makes legal writing sound more complicated than it needs to be, rarely a good thing in my view. Research shows that clients don’t like it. Sometimes there may be a case for sticking to Latin with terms of art (maybe that’s one for a future blog post), but for now I’ll just look at phrases which have perfectly serviceable everyday English alternatives. I can’t see any reason for not using the English versions. Below is a list of ten to be getting on with.

Compare to and compare with

Fairly recently, someone asked me which of these forms is correct. The answer is that they both are. They mean different things, though, so I thought I’d take a look at how they should be used properly.

15 January 2014

One of the most versatile words in English (not for the easily offended!)

Sometimes when I produce material for this blog, I may stray from topics that are directly relevant in legal or business writing. This is one such contribution. I believe that there are issues which it’s worth covering even if the scope is limited for applying them in a professional context, even more so in the case of a word which all non-native speakers know well but which they rarely employ with all the richness it can convey or using all possible derivatives. That word, of course, is fuck: a taboo word and thus inevitably avoided when speaking or referring to clients and colleagues, but frequently heard in some settings in everyday speech. I don’t claim that I will give a comprehensive overview of all possibilities, but I at least hope to offer a hint of its versatility and of the many derivative expressions.

Consulting your advisers and advising your consultants

I’ve noticed in Russia that professional services firms often like to describe themselves as consultants rather than advisers. This is also quite common in the UK and, I think, the US, but it’s worth examining the verbs to consult and to advise, because they often seem to be used wrongly by Russian speakers.

Principal meanings and principles of usage

English contains many homophones: words which are pronounced the same but mean different things. One pair of spellings that I’ve seen a couple of Russian speakers make mistakes with recently is principal and principle, so let’s look at the variety of meanings they have.

29 December 2013

The type of English to avoid in 2014

With 2013 drawing to an end, I'm sure people will be far to engrossed in their festivities to bother with advice on points of written English. Instead, I thought I'd take examples of real-life phrases taken from legal documents in English; these exemplify exactly the type of language I try to encourage people to avoid. They actually come from translations from Russian into English by native English speakers, but they're overly literal and horribly stilted. In the New Year, I'll post more advice and techniques to help people not to write like this.

Ten New Year quotations

So it's nearly New Year, and towards the end of the current year I've been a little slack with this blog. Work and the Christmas celebrations have ensured I haven't posted for more than a couple of weeks. I'll try to be a little more conscientious in the New Year, but in the meantime I'll add a couple of posts to end 2013. The first of them has a seasonal theme in that I've just been online for some quotations with a New Year theme and have picked a random selection of ten that appealed to me.

07 December 2013

Don’t leave me hanging on

Participles are verb forms ending in -ing or -ed and used adjectivally are called participles. Writers need to use them with care, or there is a risk that unintended comedy may result as a result of what is often called a ‘hanging participle’ or ‘dangling participle’.