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Manage Your Sentence Length, by Wayne Scheiss, Legible Blog from Legalwriting.net


“The shorter the sentence, the easier it is to understand.” Practical Legal Writing for Legal Assistants. -CCE

What’s a good average sentence length for legal writing?

I once asked a group of lawyers at a CLE seminar that question. ‘Thirteen words,’ one lawyer volunteered. ‘Seven,’ said another. Wow. Writing about legal matters with an average of seven words per sentence isn’t realistic, is it? That means for every sentence of ten words, you’ve got to write one of four words to bring the average to seven. That would be tough.

But the instinct is right. Steven Stark, author of Writing to Win, says the more complex the material, the shorter the sentences should be. So what’s a more realistic goal? The experts say between 20 and 25 words:

  • below 25—Wydick in Plain English for Lawyers
  • about 22—Enquist & Oates in Just Writing: Grammar, Punctuation, and Style for the Legal Writer
  • about 20—Garner in Legal Writing in Plain EnglishHow do you know your average sentence length?

You can program Microsoft Word to tell you. . . .