By Violette Bishai.
In the legal profession, we’ve come to recognize the power of words. Being one of the most important tools, “words are used to advocate, persuade, and instruct.” Throughout the constantly growing and evolving world of law, the importance of legal writing and the power words contain will remain the same. But, the challenge for trial attorneys is always going to be finding the best tools for persuasion.
Know Your Audience:
Audience is an important factor to consider. Every word written should take that specific audience into consideration. For example, a brief, a memorandum, and a report would each contain different words. Each are used to support various forms of information to serve different purposes.
Avoid Passive Voice:
Passive voice eliminates the subject of the verb. Active voice describes a sentence where the subject performs an action stated by the verb. It gives the audience the noun that does the acting and clarifies the message. For example, instead of writing,
‘The whole suburb was destroyed.’ use ‘The forest fire destroyed the whole suburb.’
This allows for a more concise argument.
Action words or ‘power’ verbs assist in making legal prose more powerful and compelling. When you use a power verb, you will communicate your message more effectively and demonstrate more confidence than when using other types of verbs. Power verbs can also make your writing more interesting and help prevent you from using the same words too many times. For example, instead of,
‘John made new software for ABC Company.’ use, ‘John developed new software for ABC Company.’
Edits and Revisions:
Typically, the importance of edits and revisions is outweighed by the actual completion of the work itself. It is still an important step. Make it a priority to go back and edit your work one additional time after the first run. Oftentimes, mistakes are missed as you rush to finish something before a deadline. Allocate extra time to review your work. Try reading your work out loud; you’ll be thankful you did.
Learn additional ways to improve your legal writing here.