Saturday, November 13, 2010

Reducing Word Counts

One skill that we need to teach our students is how to reduce the number of words in their writing without sacrificing the underlying message.  Where courts limit words, we must teach our students to eliminate phrases such as these:
  • "It is important to note that . . . "
  • "It should be noted that . . . "
If it is important, or if it should be noted, it will be so even without saying that it is important or should be noted.  In addition to eliminating certain phrases, we should teach our students how to reduce wordy phrases and use plain language alternatives instead.  For example:
  • in addition to = and
  • as well as = and
  • is required to = must
  • has a duty to = must
  • will be permitted to = may
  • has the power to = can, may
  • will be able to = can, may
  • the totality of the facts = the facts
  • which is required to = required
  • asked the question of whether = asked
  • failed to report = omitted
  • despite the fact that = although
  • will serve as a warning to = warn
  • offered testimony in support of her case = testified
  • brought the concept to articulation = said
  • at that point in time = then
  • very unique = unique
  • on the grounds that = because
  • in the event that = if
  • does constitute = is
  • a number of = several
  • does not possess = lacks
  • in the absence of = without
  • period of time = time
  • rate of speed = speed
  • if for any reason whatsoever = if
  • makes provision for = provides
  • expressly provides = provides
  • the City of Chicago = Chicago
  • the State of Illinois = Illinois

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This blog is so informative. And you put the fundamentals of good writing (any kind of writing)so well. I don't know why this all isn't just common sense. Be brief; be clear; follow the rules of punctuation and grammar. This seems so simple, but hardly anyone does it. Being able to communicate well is at the heart of being an excellent lawyer. I mean, what's the use of knowing the law, if you can't present your analysis and arguments in a clear and persuasive way?

Vidya Devaiah
SDD Global Solutions

Posted by: Vidya Devaiah | Nov 30, 2010 10:45:50 PM

It's ironic that high school kids are taught to lengthen their comments when the real world will demand they be concise.

Perhaps knowing how painful it was to stretch their words will help them appreciate brevity.

Posted by: David M. Patt, CAE | Dec 6, 2010 1:05:20 PM

Maybe the length of student essays should be assigned, not by word count, but by idea count. That would undermine the motivation to write verbosely just to inflate the word count.

Posted by: Janet Swisher | Dec 29, 2010 9:36:20 AM

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