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”)
- On September 30, 2010 . . .