In legal writing, plain and simple language is always best. But there are times when words can overlap or repeat in a way that confuses the reader. The answer? Abbreviate and define. But do it wisely. Why does some legal writing contain terms that seem needlessly formal, such as a specific address that's defined as the “Subject Property,” or a relevant contract that's called the “Supplier Contract?” As a new legal writer, this mystified me, but I dutifully imitated the briefs and memos I saw until I understood why attorneys use defined terms. My writing got better once I understood how to strategically shorten concepts to help the reader better picture the facts in my argument. Eliminate Repetitive or Long Phrases Take a sentence like this: “Plaintiff's second claim for relief sets forth its claim against Defendant for insurance coverage relating to the claim made against Plaintiff by a person claiming to be injured on Plaintiff's property. In its claim, Plaintiff claims…” I'm tired already. Aren't you? What a nightmare. And how many different ways can the word “claim” be used? You don't want partners or judges to be tired or confused reading your written product. You want them to be engaged, clear-headed, and focused, so define it once, and avoid repeating unnecessary words and phrases. Shortened, Defined Terms Add Conceptual Flow Now read this: “The Coverage Claim asks Trapezoid to defend Blue Ridge against the Schmidt Complaint.” To add clarity to a sentence or even to a document, […]
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