Friday, February 25, 2011

Can They REALLY Chuck The Legalease?

I haven't spoken to a large group of lawyers for quite some time.
But I did spend years talking to and for lawyers. And I did write my share of letters, memos, speeches, columns and related matter for them.
Over the years, I've always tried to get them to chuck the jargon and speak and write simply and clearly.
In a little while I'll be giving them a message here at the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Conference of County Bar Leaders on the campus of Penn State University in State College, Pa.
Here's part of what I want to tell them:
1) As much as possible, try to rid your language of qualifiers. Qualifying adverbs, adjectives and other words and phrases muddy the meaning of what you're trying to say.
2) Be specific. Wherever and whenever you can, replace words like "often" and "sometimes" and "maybe" with more specific words.
3) Get rid of prepositional phrases. These phrases (like "in order to") bog down your language.
4) Use active verbs. Ditch the passive voice and avoid the verb to be. Remember: Something that's happening now is always more interesting than something that happened yesterday.
5) Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Short words. Short sentences. Short paragraphs.

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