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Legal Writing Advice

Twitter Archive
(see an explanation of Twitter terminology below)

Writing Tip: Focus on your reader—what does he or she already know? Need to know? Want to know? What questions must be answered?

Great legal-writing advice from a non-lawyer: What are you trying to accomplish? (via @minorwisdom)

Proofread and edit carefully. Senior attorneys may assume sloppy writing equals sloppy research and sloppy thinking. RT @ProfJonathan

Avoid long paragraphs/long blocks of print. Use white space, bullets, and lists to make your writing easier to read.

Using Quotations Effectively

Using quotation marks with other punctuation—a review of the rules in the US by @joe_roy

Don’t send a client fifteen pages if you can answer the question in two. If you need fifteen pages, start with a short Executive Summary.

When referring to a case holding, write "the court held"—words like stated, noted, indicated all refer to dicta.

Move case name and citation to the end of your sentence. Start sentence with holding/what’s important about the case.

North Carolina Supreme Court Grammar Lesson: Don't Draft Summary Judgment Affidavits This Way (use of passive). RT @SCATJ @LeeRosen

Using defined terms? Does utility (concision, consistency) outweigh cost (clutter, disruption)? by @AdamsDrafting

For defined terms, just use quotation marks and parentheses. You don’t need “hereinafter known as . . .”

Avoid unnecessary definitions—"XYZ Inc. (“XYZ Inc.”) asserts that Jones Corp. (“Jones Corp.”) failed to . . . " They’re just silly.

7 Simple Ways to Dramatically Improve Everything You Write Useful for legal writing too. (via @EnglishProfi)

Techniques for Emphasis & De-Emphasis by @minorwisdom. Emphasize without using bold or all caps.

Follow court’s citation rules and don’t misrepresent. Court Fines Lawyer for Sloppy Cite. RT @legalblogwatch.

Capitalize "court" when (1) referring to the court you are appearing before, (2) referring to the US Supreme Court, or (3) using the full name of a court.

Avoid unnecessary legalese like hereinbefore, wheretofore, said (instead of “said document” use “this document”).

“Avoid fancy words," as Strunk and White said in Elements of Style. Keep it simple—begin, not commence; happen, not transpire; use, not utilize.

“Do a draft” doesn’t mean an unfinished work. It means “finish completely, then expect to make changes.” RT @ProfJonathan

“You become a good writer . . . by having your work routinely subjected to withering scrutiny, by you or . . . others.” RT @AdamsDrafting

Top of PageTwitter Terminology

An explanation of Twitter terminology

@Name is a person or organization’s Twitter name. You can find that person’s tweets at

RTs I repeat a tweet—“retweet” or “RT”—when I find an interesting suggestion or a useful web resource posted by someone else. The @Name in the RT indicates whose post I am retweeting.

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