AuthorEdwin Scott Fruehwald
ProfessionLaw Professor at the University of Alabama
The previous chapters have shown you how you can improve your writing
so that you can better communicate your ideas to your readers. As I have
stressed throughout this book, communication is the writer’s responsibility,
not the reader’s. The writer must remember that the reader is reading the
memorandum or brief for the rst time. What may seem clear to the writer,
who has spent a month researching and writing a project, may not seem so
clear to the reader, who is seeing the material for the rst time.
As I have also stressed, the writer should always put himself in the read-
er’s shoes. What does the reader need to know to understand your paper
fully? Will the reader have any questions after nishing your paper? How
can the reader criticize your arguments and conclusions?
Becoming a good writer is a lifelong endeavor. Everyone can improve
their writing. A good lawyer constantly reviews her writing to determine
how she can improve it. Such a lawyer effectively communicates to her col-
leagues, opponents, and the court. Such a lawyer effectively represents her
clients, and she rarely loses cases she should win.
The Keys to Clear Legal Writing
1. Use the active voice; don’t overuse the passive voice.
2. Write with verbs.
3. Avoid nominalizations whenever possible.
4. Avoid overuse of “to be” or “to have.”
Chapter 9
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5. Avoid complex verb constructions.
6. Edit for wordiness.
7. Delete unnecessary repetitions.
Scrutinize constructions beginning with “there” or “it” for wordiness.
9. Shorten long descriptive phrases whenever possible.
10. Express the negative in positive form whenever possible.
Consider emphasis—sentence structure, placement, punctuation, spe-
cial type.
12. Clarify lists with numbers or letters.
13. Avoid clichés and legal jargon.
14. Be specic; carefully consider the words you want to use.
15. Use demonstrative adjectives to be more specic.
16. Avoid qualiers.
17. Combine short sentences to avoid choppiness.
18. Use a variety of sentence patterns and lengths.
19. Only combine ideas that belong together.
20. Delete redundant sentences.
21. Don’t tread water.
22. Avoid overuse of particular words; use a thesaurus.
23. Avoid abrupt changes of verb tense.
24. Carefully organize paragraphs.
25. Check for paragraph unity.
Relate all sentences in a paragraph to the paragraph’s topic sentence.
27. Use a single theme for each paragraph.
28. Use a variety of paragraph organizations.
29. Create coherence and ow.
Create a hierarchy of ideas, phrases, and sentences within the
31. Think in large blocks.
32. Consider the paragraph’s dynamic ow and goal.
33. Ensure each sentence ows from the previous one.
Consider punctuation’s relation to ow. Separate linked ideas with
brief punctuation (commas); separate different ideas with longer punc-
tuation (periods and paragraph breaks).
35. Properly place primary and secondary material.
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