Omit needless details
If a detail isn’t relevant or useful, omit it. In legal writing, needless details often appear as names and dates.
Larding a statement of facts with dates annoys some readers, including judges: “Most dates are clutter,” says Judge Mark Painter in his book The Legal Writer. And names can be clutter, too, if the people named aren’t important or won’t be mentioned again.
Using a specific name or date tells the reader it’s important; often it’s not. Here’s an example with a date and three full names:
- On April 4, 2008, Isam Yasar alleged that his supervisor, Russell Dunagan, told him that if Yasar continued to complain, Dunagan would have to discipline and possibly terminate a fellow Muslim and Yasar’s co-worker, James Lira.
As you edit this sentence, think about the story you’re telling and the points you’ll argue. If April 4 isn’t important and won’t appear again, omit it. As for the names, let’s imagine that Isam Yasar and James Lira are important characters you’ll mention several times. Leave them alone. But let’s imagine that Russell Dunagan is not important, so you can call him the supervisor.
- Isam Yasar alleged that his supervisor told him that if Yasar continued to complain, the supervisor would have to discipline and possibly terminate a fellow Muslim and Yasar’s co-worker, James Lira.
Same content, but now it’s down from 35 words to 30. Concision.
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