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General Tips on Legal Writing
     

    Legal Writing


     
     

    General Tips on Legal Writing

     

    RULE

     

    INCORRECT

     

    CORRECT

     

    Always use the active voice

     

    The car was driven by the defendant.

     

    The defendant drove the car.

     

    Avoid run-on and overly complex sentences

     

    Due to the fact that the defendant drove the car while intoxicated, which, by itself is a crime, in addition to the fact that the defendant was a minor, he will face a minimum of one year in prison under the Iowa Code.

     

    Under the Iowa Code, a minor who drives while intoxicated faces a minimum of one year in prison.

     

    Nouns and pronouns must agree

     

    Congress made their intent clear by increasing the statutory minimum sentence.

     

    Congress made its intent clear by increasing the statutory minimum sentence.

     

    Maintain parallel sentence structure

     

    The assailant wore a green shirt, a blue hat, and was carrying a purple bag.

     

    The assailant wore a green shirt, a blue hat, and carried a purple bag.

     

    Avoid dangling participles

     

    Running from the police, the defendant’s wallet fell to the ground. (This is wrong because it states that the wallet was doing the running.)

     

    The defendant’s wallet fell to the ground when he ran from the police.

     

    Avoid clichés and colloquialisms

     

    The defendant showed his true colors.

     

    The defendant revealed his true intentions.

     

    Never begin a paragraph with the opposing argument

     

    The plaintiff argues that the defendant was negligent. However, this assertion is erroneous because no evidence was presented that established that the defendant breached his duty of care.

     

    The plaintiff presented no evidence that the defendant breached his duty of care. Consequently, the plaintiff’s assertion that the defendant acted negligently is erroneous.

     

    Always write in the affirmative

     

    The defendant should not be prohibited from claiming self-defense.

     

    The defendant must be permitted to claim self-defense.

     

    Place prepositions next to the words that they modify

     

    The defendant argued that the crime scene was tainted during trial.

     

    The defendant argued, during trial, that the crime scene was tainted.

     

    Avoid unnecessary words (especially unnecessary adjectives and adverbs)

     

    The defendant clearly met his burden of proof.

     

    The defendant met his burden of proof.

     

    Avoid redundancy

     

    The issue before the court was whether or not the defendant met his burden of proof.

     

    The issue before the court was whether the defendant met his burden of proof.

     

    Avoid excessive legalese

     

    As stated heretofore, the defendant’s property, including his bank accounts and dividends derived there from, was irreparably removed . . .

     

    The defendant’s property, including his bank accounts and interest. . .

     

    Avoid unnecessary introductory phrases

     

    It must be understood that at no point did the defendant express remorse.

     

    The defendant failed to express remorse.

     

    Always assert a point in a point-heading

     

    The issue of reasonableness.

     

    The defendant acted unreasonably.

     

    Never personalize a sentence

     

    We respectfully assert that the court acted against the weight of the evidence.

     

    The court acted against the weight of the evidence.