Management Assistance Program

Do You Know 25 Words That Are Their Own Opposites? November 17, 2020

Today’s tip is something completely different. We will discuss your vocabulary. Lawyers generally have a larger vocabulary than most because we work with both the written and the spoken word— and we had to add many new words to our vocabulary in law school.

But when drafting, it is very good to know words can have entirely opposite meanings, depending on how they are used. So your attention is directed to 25 Words That Are Their Own Opposites.

The first example in the article is sanction. As we lawyers know, sanction can mean two completely different things, from “give official permission or approval for (an action)” to “impose a penalty on.” But the writer uses a good example to show how a poorly written sentence can make it unclear which of the opposite meanings is intended. Armed with that knowledge, writers should make clear which of the different meanings is intended in the sentences they create.

The other 24 words on the list may not be used by lawyers as often as sanction, but it is still good to know what words can have opposite meanings depending on how they are used.