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Legal Writing is Precise Writing, by Suzanne E. Rowe©2007, Oregon State Bar Bulletin — NOVEMBER 2007


A colleague appeared in my office with a pressing question about hyphens. He was writing an article about people who own small businesses. But he was concerned that a punctuation mistake might make the article about small people, instead of small businesses. That concern (and perhaps a touch of procrastination) propelled him to my office. Was he writing about small business owners or small-business owners?

Legal writing is precise writing. Sometimes the missing hyphen, misplaced word or extra comma can change the meaning of a sentence. In quotations, lack of precision can hurt your reputation (or just make you look sloppy). The devil’s in the details.