Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Nice list of things to avoid in brief writing (registration required).

" Lawyers believe that a formal writing such as a brief must use "official," meaning pompous or inflated, language. Not true. You are writing for a very overworked audience that has no time or patience for inflated language such as "in the instant case" or "in the matter at bar" when "this case" perfectly and clearly expresses the same idea. There is no need for "the Honorable Court," or "the Honorable Justice Scholar" when "this Court" and "Justice Scholar" works just as well. Nor is there any need for "the subject accident" or "the building at issue" when "the accident" and "the building" are just as clear. You can also omit, without losing anything, phrases like "we respectfully submit," "it is worth noting," "it is clear" and "it is important to note." These phrases add nothing to the court's understanding of your argument.

Here's a short list of some other inflated words and phrases that you can do without and their replacements:

• Instead of "due to the fact that," "by reason of," "inasmuch as" and "on the ground that" use "because" or "since."

• Instead of "in order to" use "to."

• Instead of "subsequent to" use "after."

• Instead of "during the course of" use "during."

• Instead of "in some instances" use "sometimes."

You get the idea. By removing jargon and inflated language from your briefs, you improve readability and make it easier for judges to follow your argument."

Good writing is hard, and the way lawyers are trained doesn't help-- there is very little writing involved in the three years we spend in law school. Maybe the best way to improve a brief is to have someone who is unfamiliar with the case read it, with carte blanche to cut.

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