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Avoid Hyperbole, by Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm, Persuasive Litigator™


What is hyperbole anyway? Here’s a quick example. How would you respond as opposing counsel to a statement that there are “countless obvious examples” of the opposing party’s errors? Perhaps, something like, “Oh really?” “Countless and obvious, you say? How interesting that you did not name anything specific. We did what any reasonable company would do in a similar situation.” And, then you must explain what you meant all over again – if you get the opportunity.

Simply put, hyperbole is deliberate exaggeration. Although often misguidedly used for emphasis, rhetoric, or even sarcasm, you invite an attack to prove your statement. At best, you may have illustrated that the other side’s behavior is outlandish. At worst, you have lost credibility with the court because you are unable to back up your statement with hard facts. Never imply a promise that you cannot deliver.

This is a good time to remember that your writing is more persuasive when you show, don’t tell. If the opposing party has behaved beyond the pale, telling the court or the jury what happened (who did what to whom and why) will be more persuasive than rhetorical outrage.

You will find in legal blogs on the use of hyperbole. This post is one of my favorites. As always, there is the bonus of hyperlinks to posts on similar subjects at the bottom of the page. -CCE