Above the Law (blog), Bad Legal Writing, Editing, Legal Writing, Mark Herrmann, Microsoft Word, Readabilty Score, Steve Dykstra
Expose Your Weakness — Now! by Mark Herrmann, Above the Law Blog
Think you can write? Do these four things.
First, pull out the last brief that you wrote.
Not that one — that’s the final version, edited by guys who could write. We’re looking for your work, untouched by others. Find the unedited draft that you first circulated. (If you don’t have a draft brief handy, that’s okay. Find the last long email that you sent to someone who matters — to the partner, the client, the general counsel, or the CEO.)
Second, click through this link, which will tell you how to enable Microsoft Word’s ‘readability’ feature on your computer. Enable that feature.
Third, let the readability feature score your work.
Finally, take a handkerchief and wipe the spit out of your eye. (I bet you didn’t realize that a computer could spit in your eye.)
You didn’t notice the spit? Here it comes: Compare your readability score to the average readability score for the works of bestselling authors.
I didn’t even know about Microsoft’s readability feature until I published a column on legal writing last month. I argued in favor of using short sentences and the active voice. A reader — Steve Dykstra, who’s a legal recruiter and budding novelist in Toronto — promptly sent me an enlightening email. Steve also subjected my work — my column on legal writing — to Microsoft Word’s readability test. Steve then told me how my column compared to the work of bestselling authors. . . .
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