Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Record negativity

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Professional paralegals should be pros at concise, clear writing. Today’s exercise is to fix this excerpt from a brief spotted by Tom Freeland at NMissCommentor:

The miniscule mention of abuse in the affidavits is insufficient to find the Mississippi Supreme Court’s decision was unreasonable in finding there was no deficient performance and that there is no prejudice.  Nor is the decision of the district court wrong in finding that the state court decision was not unreasonable.

I’m assuming with some confidence (translated: hoping) that this was not drafted for an attorney by a graduate of my classes.

Bonus points if you can fix make this clear and concise while keeping the alliteration!

As far as I know there have been no formal consequences to the author. However, on possible consequence of poor writing is that samples may be posted on blogs, so this goes into the “Consequences of Sloppiness” category.

Why don’t lawyers use punctuation?

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

One recent viewer arrived at this blog through the search query, “Why don’t lawyers use punctuation?”  Of course, the searcher did not find the answer her, although he or she likely found several posts noting that even judges have had enough of legalese, poor grammar and punctuation, and poor writing in general, and posts regarding my own quest for a reduction in the use of legalese, Latin phrases, and other impediments to clear communication with clients. (Lawyers also use incredibly long sentences like the one preceding this parenthetical, a sentence like this one that should be broken down into two or more much simpler sentences.) I post about these things here because in most law offices it is the paralegal who is charged with client communication.

Following the searcher’s query, I did locate an ABC Radio National – The Law Reportinterview with Judith Bennett, Plain Language Consultant at Melbourne’s Freehill, Hollingdale and Page that sheds some light on why lawyers starting writing the way we write which you can read here. It even attempts to give some answer to the more important question of why we, as a group, still write that way. Finally, Bennett joins in the call for the use of plain language – not surprising given that she is a plain language consultant. The incredible thing is that a law firm needs a professional consultant in order to write plain language!

As I’ve stated before the professional paralegal excels at conveying legal concepts using plain language rather than by perpetuating legalese. A message I’ll be repeating here and in all three of my courses this spring – Bankruptcy, Business Organizations, and Contracts. (That noise you just heard was the collective groaning of my students.)