An overarching goal of persuasive legal writing is to make the judge’s (or clerk’s) job as easy as possible. You don’t want to make the reader use an excessive amount of mental energy to figure out what you’re trying to say; instead, you want the reader to conserve mental energy for deep processing and analysis.
Here are three ways to make your briefs easier to read:
- Avoid inelegant variation. “Inelegant variation” means referring to the same thing in different ways. It requires the reader to perform the extra step of figuring out whether a word or phrase used in one part of your brief refers to the same thing as a different word or phrase used later in your brief. Be consistent: once you’ve identified Jones as a police officer, refer to him as “Jones” throughout the brief—don’t call him “the officer” in one paragraph and “the policeman” in the next.
- Use simple sentence structure. Instead of stuffing a sentence with qualifications or digressions set off by commas, communicate the same information in a few shorter sentences.
- Lay out all of the steps of your reasoning. Make sure that you synthesize the facts of your case with the applicable legal rule before stating your conclusion.
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