Editing for Clarity and Conciseness. How to: tighten sentences, use strong verbs, omit jargon, and make every word count. Part 14 of the Legal Methods Lecture Series By Clare Coleman. Introduction. The goal of concise writing is to use the most effective words.
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How to: tighten sentences, use strong verbs, omit jargon, and make every word count.
Part 14 of the Legal Methods Lecture Series
By Clare Coleman
EX: Jack sued Jill.
Instead of: “Jack, who was angry when the water spilled, sued, in federal court, Jill, who had dropped the handle of the pail.
Jack sued Jill when she dropped the pail’s handle. He brought the claim in federal court.
General Rule: Replace several vague words with one powerful and specific word.
Specific Rule: Use a concise verb rather than a vague verb + description about the verb (adverb).
How to edit: (1) Use the “search” function in your word processing program and find “ly” endings. Eliminate the “ly” word and its connecting verb, and substitute a stronger verb. (2) Search for all forms of the verb “to be” and replace with a more precise verb.
Try: Defense counsel objected to the prosecutor’s question.
-al, -ence, -ancy, -ment, -ion, -ity, -ency, -ant, -ent, -ance.
The judge referred back to the document.
Past history shows that …
He drove at his usual rate of speed
We are in the process of filing a motion.
The thief ran a distance of 20 feet.
At this point in time.
Because of the fact that the defendant → Because the defendant
Despite the fact that the judge → Although the judge
Due to the fact that the jury → Because the jury
In view of the fact that the law in this state → Because the law
How to Edit: (1) Cut one word of an unnecessary pair. (2) Cut extraneous prepositional phrases (phrases that begin with in, of, at, by, with, from, on, of). (3) Delete phrases that end in “that.”