If we had to describe the usual way legal professionals write, we’d probably use verbs such as tedious and unclear.
Does your writing also fall into this category?
Whether the answer is yes or you’re just looking to make your writing a bit better, you’ve clicked/tapped on the right article. We’ll show you how to make your legal writing bold and powerful – something your clients or your colleagues will most likely appreciate.
Let’s dive down into it:
1. Mix up your approach
Improving is going to be hard when you’re starting from scratch every time.
Using a legal template as a basis for your new document is very handy as it will make the whole process faster. More importantly, you’ll sleep better knowing that every document has a consistent structure.
Similar logic extends to the revision process as well, where you could double-check everything manually or give legal writing software a go.
For instance, using document review software gives you access to all of the key details in your document at a click of a button. It can automatically highlight critical terms, spot mistakes, and fix formatting issues – to name a few features.
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2. Stay away from unnecessary legalese
Just because you understand it doesn’t mean your readers will. You shouldn’t talk like a lawyer when good old plain English suffices.
We know that in some cases, legal jargon is unavoidable, particularly when you need to use precise language. But don’t use it when there is a more straightforward option.
Does the phrase ‘’it is hereby ordered’’ add anything to your text other than unnecessary clutter?
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3. Keep it brief
A bigger word count doesn’t make your writing authoritative. If some words don’t strengthen your argument, don’t insist on keeping them in there.
Also, always remind yourself that complex compound sentences only make your writing less impactful, especially when they can be replaced with a single word. For instance, why use a phrase like: ‘’In the vicinity of’’ when you could simply use the word ‘’near’’.
Your writing will be a lot less monotonous, and you’ll get rid of all the fluff that takes up a lot of valuable space.
4. Keep it active
The best way to achieve more clarity in your legal document is by writing in an active voice.
Conveying a message is going to be a lot easier as it shows exactly who is doing what. There is no room for ambiguity when you put the primary subject at the beginning of the sentence, and it’s clear which action it’s performing.
An added benefit is that ditching the passive voice allows you to get your point across with fewer words.
5. Presentation matters
Reading a big chunk of text can tire out your readers’ eyes. Thus, you need to make sure that your document is as easy to digest as possible.
Text works best when it’s broken down into smaller chunks. You can achieve this by using subheadings. Not only is it easier to read, but it also makes navigating your document effortless.
As a rule, running text should be used whenever you want to keep the reader on track when explaining complex ideas.
Bonus tip: Take advantage of legal symbols to communicate ideas more efficiently (especially when writing contracts). Using the section mark or a pilcrow is going to make your writing less cumbersome, so brushing up on those keyboard shortcuts is a good idea.
6. Proofread effectively
Sometimes you don’t have time to let your text sit for a while before you proofread it. That’s why you need to approach this process a little bit differently.
Nothing beats a different pair of eyes, but if no one is available, you can try these things:
- Use text-to-speech to hear how it sounds.
- Print it out (mistakes are easier to spot on paper).
- Use spelling and grammar checker software.
Practice makes perfect
The important thing to note is that there is no quick fix to better legal writing. Getting impressive results takes a lot of work that is going to take time.
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However, don’t get discouraged. With a little bit of effort, you’ll see a lot of improvement in your writing. When you write your next brief, remember these practices and try to implement them.
Your readers will appreciate the fact that your legal document is easy to read and not a snooze fest.