Sunday, September 07, 2008

Word of the Week: submit

Some words just bug me -- submit is one. Actually, it’s not the word that drives me crazy -- it’s when people use it to sound like a lawyer. (Actually, their version of a lawyer, which is pretty much Perry Mason saying something like: "I submit, your honour, that my client -- Colonel Mustard -- could not have killed Miss Peacock in the library using the candelabra!) I know using submit is perfectly proper, it's just overly formal and smacks of legalese.

Submit came up not too long ago when I had a client who was invited to give its opinion on a public policy issue. The client's legal department wrote an opinion paper on the issue and the paper truly was a “submission”, in that the client was submitting it in response to a specific request for input. Even so, I urged them to resist using “submit” with regard to the separate points or opinions they were expressing.

For example, rather than say, “We submit that treating the matter this way would harm…", I encouraged them to say, “We believe treating the matter this way would harm …” or, “It’s our opinion that treating the matter this way would harm…”.

Often, when I press a client and to say “it’s our opinion”, instead of “we submit”, the client resists. When I ask why, the answer almost always has something to do with them feeling somehow self-conscious asserting their opinion. But that’s nonsense, I point out, since to submit something is to put forth an opinion.

So, I say -- don’t hide behind “submit” -- if you have an opinion, state it in plain language and stand by it!


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