Writing Right

The KNOW: The Magazine for Paralegals LinkedIn discussion forum includes a post by Kathy DiLorenzo,  Vice President, Business Development at MyLegal.com, entitled “Why it’s Important to Write Right in the Legal Profession” with a link to an article “Why it’s Important to Write Right in the Legal Profession – And 5 Common Writing Pitfalls to Avoid” by Brenda Bernstein.

Several posts here discuss how important it is for a professional paralegal to write correctly – using proper grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and the like. There is an category cataloguing the “Consequences of Sloppiness.” However, I do not give instruction on how to write correctly in this blog. Instead I have counted on Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips Check out both the website and the podcasts. Both have been quite helpful to those of my students who spend even a small amount of time with either of them.

This is my first experience with Barbara’s advice, but in this article she does address some of the most common problems I experience when reading student work and legal documents produced be some very good law offices:

Past or Present – use of the wrong verb tense
Example or Complete List – use of “i.e.” and “e.g.”
Law or Liberty – confusing statute with statue
Proper Punctuation: Periods and Commas Inside Quotation Marks
Proper Punctuation: Apostrophes

Barbara presents this addition to the Consequences of Sloppiness:

In a famous case in England, a traffic ticket was thrown out because it was issued for illegal “stoping” instead of “stopping”; the alleged perpetrator had conducted no mining activities (“stoping” is a mining term) and so was found not guilty. I bet that police officer never issued another “stoping” ticket.

Barbara also offers to help:

There are multiple ways to make writing errors in legal documents, and I have only covered a few. My most important advice is to proofread and proofread again! Get a second pair of eyes to check your work. If you have grammar questions you want answered, I will answer them to the best of my ability in the comments section of this blog. I look forward to hearing from you…

I suggest we all take her up on her offer. I know I will.

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