Legal Writing Tips of the Day

Timothy Kowal, Esq.
November 18, 2020

A few good tips came across my desk this week. Use in good health.

1. Via Bryan Garner's LawProse (# 351): Before launching thoughtlessly into a grab-bag of arguments, tell your reader how many arguments to expect. If it is a long list, give signposts where your arguments are going before sending your reader on the arduous journey. This will help prevent losing reader by attrition.

Tip: Keeps readers constantly (if only subliminally) aware of how the argument is progressing. Ex. "In ruling on this motion, this Court is presented with three issues—any one of which is dispositive in Burton's favor." Then "First, . . ." It's a simple but powerful format. Remember it and use it.

2. "In terms of." Think through what this means. It is unnecessary 99% of the time, and simply "for" or "in" may be used instead. Usually we use "in terms of" during speech when we get lost in a sentence. There is no excuse for it in writing.

3. Mind how you begin and end sentences. Start and finish strong. This means eliminating the words “It” and “There” to begin sentences, and it is why to avoid ending sentences with prepositions -- prepositions are weak. (Did that last sentence finish with a weak word?)