Lawyers are tasked with writing in many different formats and forums. Often these formats require strong legal writing, while others just require clarity and readability.
Whatever type of writing you’re required to do on a given day, there are some important considerations that apply across the board. Follow these tips to improve your legal writing and get your message across more effectively.
1. Be clear and concise
Especially when you’re writing for an online audience, it’s more important than ever to be concise. This means keeping your content short, but your sentences also need to be straightforward and to the point. It can be easy for legalese to take over, but, depending on your audience, your content needs to be accessible and easy to digest.
Always make your main points as clear as possible so that your readers won’t be confused or trying to guess at your meaning.
2. Use an error check service
No one wants to read content that’s full of typos and grammatical errors. It’s not only hard to read, but it looks bad for your practice. There are many online tools you can use that instantly provide an error check on your writing. Grammarly is one free tool that checks your content for you. Simply add the plug-in to your web browser so the error check is instant.
3. Use the active voice
Online writing experts agree that using the active voice is more effective than the passive. It’s clearer, and makes your writing easier to understand. Passive voice can often make you seem unsure about what you’re saying.
4. Outline your thoughts
Before you start writing, think through the points you want to make and create an outline. No matter what kind of writing it is, an outline keeps you on topic and helps you gather your thoughts into clear sections.
5. Read your writing aloud
When you’re done with a draft, read what you wrote, out loud. This will help you identify errors and clunky words and sentence structures. If something doesn’t sound right, it probably won’t read right to other people, either.
6. Read other legal writing
Good writers read a lot of other good writing. Reading legal writing can provide inspiration for your own, and help you develop a strong voice. You won’t be able to write well unless you can see an example of what that really looks like.
7. Be persuasive
As an attorney, you already know the power of persuasion. Use this tactic in your writing, too. Don’t bury your argument with lots of extra language that isn’t necessary. Make sure you make your points with confidence, convincing your reader about their validity and your authenticity. Show them why they should listen to you.
Being able to produce strong legal writing is an important part of your job. These seven tips will help you perfect your prose and remain accessible to the average reader.