DOCTOR ENGLISH: Taboo Words and Phrases

GBA reminds us regularly, words and phrases are critical to the success of geoprofessional consultants.  It is critically important that we are aware some words and phrases have troublesome meanings and can create costly problems. The following list comprises a few of these words and phrases. Some you should not use at all; others you should use only with deliberate care.  Keep in mind, that the best evidence is what’s in writing and the final arbiter of what words mean usually is a jury of one’s peers.


  • All/every/full/complete (these absolutes bar the exceptions that usually exist)
  • Certify/warrant/guarantee/ensure/assure/insure (guarantee-liability is not covered by PLI)
  • Client (seldom is the client representative the client, too)
  • Defend (not in contracts)
  • Excavation (the hole or the process of making a hole)
  • General compliance (means “We will not comply” or “We have not complied.”)
  • Work (constructors perform work; geoprofessionals do not.)
  • Investigate (“explore” usually is correct)
  • Inspect(or)/monitor (usually, “observe” or “observer” is what’s meant)
  • A number of, many, few, heavy, large, several, etc. (mean one thing to you and something different to others)
  • Product (geoprofessionals do not produce products unless they welcome product-liability claims)
  • Recommendations (“confirmation-dependent recommendations” excepted when the recommendations are not confirmation- dependent)
  • Represent (can create a fiduciary-responsibility liability)
  • Time is of the essence/a timely manner (list exactly when you want it)


For more references about “Risky Language”, “Taboo Words” and “Dirty Words” download the following:


GBA’s Lunch & Learn – Risky Language

Practice Alert – Dealing with Absolutes

Practice Alert – Taboo Words

eBrownbag Webinar – Dirty Words