I’m pleased to announce that Professor Louis Sirico of Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law is the 2016 winner of the Burton Award for outstanding contributions to legal-writing education.
Professor Sirico is a long-time and staunch supporter of legal-writing education and of legal-writing teachers and is admired for his work in the field.
He is also, by the way, a graduate of The University of Texas School of Law. Well done, Lou!
Wordiness would cover most of the concision techniques discussed in this series, such as omit needless details, deflate compound prepositions, and remove redundancy, but now let’s focus on commonly used phrases you can almost always shorten:
- prior to becomes before
- subsequent to becomes after
- adjacent to becomes next to
- a number of becomes many
- at the present time becomes now
- at such time as becomes when
- despite the fact that becomes although
- during such time as becomes while
- for the purpose of becomes to
- in excess of becomes more than or over
- in the event that becomes if
- notwithstanding the fact that becomes although
- on a daily [monthly, yearly] basis becomes daily [monthly, yearly]
To achieve concision, edit for wordiness—and then reduce big words while you’re at it:
- adequate number of becomes sufficient
- sufficient becomes enough
There is no rule against splitting infinitives, and writing authorities have said so for decades. But the myth and the practice persist. The authors of the next three sentences believe you cannot place an adverb between to and the verb in an infinitive. But would you write these sentences?
Electronic filing makes it easier for courts to locate instantly and focus on relevant portions of documents.
- “to locate instantly and focus”? Confusing.
The resulting hyperlinked brief allows the judge reviewing it on a desktop computer or a mobile device to access quickly identified portions of the record.
- “to access quickly identified portions . . .” Miscue.
Modern computer screens fail to recreate adequately certain tactile experiences.
- “to recreate adequately” Awkward.
Don’t write this way. I wouldn’t. And I probably would have spelled it re-create.
What advice would you give a new lawyer about legal writing?
I’ll be writing and presenting on this question in February, and I’d appreciate your views.
I think of things like “develop good editing habits,” “try to get drafts done early,” and “read a reference book once in a while.” But I’d like to hear from practicing lawyers.
Regular readers know that I keep comments disabled because I get thousands of spam comments. But the comments are open for this.
A period walks into a bar and comes to a full stop.
A semicolon walks into a bar; almost no one recognizes it.
A question mark walks into a bar?
Two quotation marks “walk” into a bar.
An apostrophe mistakenly walks into it’s own bar, but the apostrophe meant to go to another owners bar.
A comma splice walks into a bar, it orders a drink and then leaves.
Two independent clauses walk into a bar, however they fail to get properly separated and run on into each other.
A dangling modifier walks into a bar. After finishing a drink, the bartender asks it to leave.
Because a fragment walked into a bar.
An ellipsis walks into a bar and …
An infinitive walks into a bar and decides to quickly split.
A non-restrictive clause walks into a bar which was a mistake.
A bar is a place a preposition can walk into.
A spell-checker woks in to a bar.
A synonym strolls into a tavern.
An exclamation mark skips into a bar!
A bar was visited by the passive voice.