Using Intensifiers is Literally a Crime

Michigan Bar Journal, August 2017

4 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2019

See all articles by Wayne Schiess

Wayne Schiess

University of Texas School of Law

Date Written: August 1, 2017


Legal writers sometimes use intensifiers (clearly, highly, obviously, very) to strengthen a text's persuasive force. But research and reader opinions show that using intensifiers doesn't persuade. This article suggests six ways to create emphasis – to persuade – without using intensifiers. It concludes with a discussion of the non-literal use of the word "literally" and shows that lawyers are generally avoiding that usage.

Keywords: intensifier, clearly, persuasion, literally, legal writing, persuasive writing, bullets, dashes

Suggested Citation

Schiess, Wayne, Using Intensifiers is Literally a Crime (August 1, 2017). Michigan Bar Journal, August 2017. Available at SSRN: or

Wayne Schiess (Contact Author)

University of Texas School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton St.
Austin, TX 78705
United States


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