Schiess’s biggest pet peeves: analytical writing

Here are my biggest pet peeves in analytical legal writing—primarily memos and briefs. I’ll have another list for legal drafting. This isn’t a list of the biggest problems in legal writing, just the ones that bug me.


  • Three rules for legal writing: specify, specify, specify.

Lack of up-front summary or preview

  • I’m busy and impatient. Don’t start with background—tell the point, then give the background.


  • No, it doesn’t make text easier to read. No, it isn’t good use of white space. Please, for the love of eyes and trees, stop double spacing.


  • Banished from my writing many years ago, even for titles and headings. ALL-CAPS is for shouting in email and for license plates.

Run-on sentences with however

  • You seem to know how to write a sentence, however, you do not seem to know how to punctuate it.

Over-deletion of that

  • Mr. Lee admitted being a minority . . . made him sensitive to comments about race.

Over-creation of defined names

  • (the “over-defining syndrome”)

Unnecessary dates

  • On September 30, 2010 . . .

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