Monday, January 30, 2012

Editing Process

Typos and errors in your legal writing are not an inevitable destiny according to Kendall Gray's recent piece in the National Law Journal.  Gray correctly notes that you can reduce your error rate by changing the process through which you edit text, observing the maxim that “there is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.”  Here are a few of his interesting suggestions:

Slow down. When it comes to editing, fast and good are mutually exclusive. Hurrying or skimming means not editing well

Edit the first sentence of each paragraph. Crafting these first sentences perfectly and putting them in the right order lays a solid foundation for the entire brief and frames a sturdy structure for paragraphs. A judge reading on screen may not read much more than those topic sentences anyway

Give it to someone else. Famous authors such as Philip Roth and Jonathan Franzen need editors and proofreaders. Attorneys do, too. Every firm has that one fantastic proofreader, and everyone knows who that is. The very last thing before filing, counsel should give that person the brief. This stellar proofreader has not memorized the brief and probably doesn't know the case. If he or she thinks the brief is clear, then it really is. If he or she doesn't get it, then work remains to be done.

Other editing posts:

The Indispensability of Editing When Constructing Voice

Helpful Editing Advice

Editing Exercises on Wordiness

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