We are the Products of Editing, Douglas E. Abrams, Precedent, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 12-14, Spring 2008; University of Missouri School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-18.
Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1138300
How many of us take the time to proof and edit what we write? I suspect that most, if not all, good legal writers do it. No, I’m not talking about simply running a review of your grammar, style, and punctuation in Microsoft Word. I mean really reading, proofing, and editing what you write.
When you write for the court, what is your goal? To be understood? Of course. To persuade? Absolutely. To do that, you must keep your reader’s attention. Long sentences that take up an entire paragraph, legalese, and unnecessary words are boring – period. Why would anyone want to read a quote takes up an entire page?
Persuasive legal writing is an art. It takes work, and that means editing and polishing until your writing is clear, concise, and logically flows from one point to the next. Your goal, as I’ve mentioned before, is that, by the time your judge finishes reading your brief or other document, that judge is subconsciously nodding in agreement.
As someone who has seen a state supreme court judge literally throw a party’s brief across the room because it was so badly written, I promise that judges will not waste time reading legal gibberish. If a judge finds one side‘s brief difficult to read, how much frustration does it take to put it down and pick up the other side’s well-written brief to get the facts of the case and legal argument? Folks, it doesn’t take much.
Don’t take my word for it. Mr. Abrams’ article does an excellent job. -CCE
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