Friday, November 18, 2011

Legal writing tips from An Associate's Mind

This advice comes to us by way of the great blog An Associate's Mind:

Lawyers very often need to express complex ideas and concepts in motions, briefs, letters, etc. And often times the best way to communicate legal concepts is through the use of “Inside baseball” language. Given the correct audience (other lawyers/judges) using a phrase such as res judicata is likely the best way to communicate a complex concept quickly and clearly because the writer and the audience are members of the same in-group.


Using such language to a client not familiar with the law only makes the lawyer seem intimidating or unfriendly. Instead of fostering communication with your client, it’s actually obfuscating the matter.  Know your audience. Use language effectively to communicate your ideas to your specific audience with your goal (education, persuasion, etc) in mind.


[Consider also the advice found in George Orwell's] 1946 essay Politics and the English Language:


  1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous.

Hat tip to ATL.


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