Punch up your legal writing by maximizing meaningful words and cutting down on structure words. Get to the Point! With Teddy Snyder
Are you a James Corden fan? One of the games he plays on “The Late Late Show” is Emoji Headlines. Players see a set of emojis and try to decipher what headline these emojis represent. This one says: “Lawyers Write Too Many Words.”
The thing about emojis is that each one packs meaning. The most meaningful words are nouns, like “lawyers” and “words,” and verbs like “write.” Nouns and verbs comprise the core of any sentence. Pronouns work the same way as nouns — without an emoji substitute.
Adjectives (“many”) and adverbs (“too”) modify nouns and verbs. They differentiate and add important nuance. Adjectival and adverbial phrases also do this — with more words. To make sense of the meaningful building block words, one must usually add structure words. Structure words are prepositions, conjunctions and articles.
Legal writing is complex. We seldom write simple sentences. More often, there are clauses (dependent phrases with verbs and nouns), and sentences may have multiple subjects or verbs. Serial sentences may be connected with conjunctions (and, but, for, or, nor). Some related sentences are even joined by (gasp!) semicolons.
Hey! You probably seldom use interjections in your legal writing, but use emojis for them all the time in informal texting?
You can punch up your legal writing by maximizing meaningful words and cutting down on structure words. Do this by choosing a different form of the word. For example, instead of talking about “preparing for deposition,” discuss “deposition preparation.” Or rearrange the building blocks so you don’t need structure words: “Are you a James Corden fan?” not “Are you a fan of James Corden?”
Review your draft to determine if every word you chose is meaningful or necessary. Well, is there an emoji for it?
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