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January 31, 2006

Writing For Clients--Just Say It-Part 5. "Write Like You Talk"!

In December I tried to write four posts on saner writing: parts One, Two, Three--and finally Part Four, which set out the same 8 rules for sane writing which appears in our firm's Practice Guide for associates and paralegals. At the time I was flattered that Ray Ward at Minor Wisdom and Patrick Lamb at In Search of Perfect Client Service commented on these posts favorably because I know they both care about straightforward and sane legal writing. Long after finishing these posts, I noticed a wonderful post on marketing by Michelle Golden last October at her Golden Practices site. One of her writing rules: "Write Like You Talk. That's how people like to read. Even if you are writing to the most educated target market - keep it simple. The best test of writing is how it sounds when you read it out loud." I liked that.

Much writing by even the most talented lawyers, and especially by those just starting to practice, is characterized by an awkward and often wordy stream-of-consciousness quality in which the lawyer-writer is apparently "talking to himself/herself." This happens--especially on briefs or longer documents--because the writer is so familiar with the topic that he or she lapses into an archaic "code" and starts, in effect, to mutter on paper. If you just say "it" out loud in "people" language, often right away you'll hear a clearer and shorter sentence you can use. And you'll have a sentence an unwashed reader can pick up on and understand quickly and appreciatively. "Writing like you talk" is an effective way to get yourself back into gear when you're writing and you've lost your path. Thank you, Michelle.

Posted by JD Hull at January 31, 2006 03:10 PM


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