Business Law

Business Law News 2018, ISSUE 3

How to Write Effectively

Posted on February 7, 2018, by Julie Brook, Esq.1

Julie Brook, Esq. has been with CEB since 1995. Before that, she practiced civil litigation with Landels, Ripley & Diamond in San Francisco. She is a volunteer arbitrator with San Francisco’s Department of Human Services.

When drafting any document—from a contract to a research memo—always remember: Effective documents are written in a way that the reader can easily read and understand. Here are eight techniques to make your writing as clear, and thus as effective, as possible.

  1. Use familiar language. Always try to use common words and avoid legalistic or foreign terminology; regardless of how complex the issues may be, using plain English will aid understanding.
  2. Cut to the essentials. Omit unnecessary words and phrases; avoid redundancy.
  3. Stay active. Use active rather than passive verbs to reduce wordiness and avoid ambiguity.
  4. Consider using formatting to ease reading. You may want to use multiple columns if the document is printed in a small font size, because the human eye has difficulty following small print across a wide page.
  5. Stay short and to the point. Use short and specific sentences, paragraphs, and sections.
  6. Break it down. Use "bullets" or numbered clauses to break up long sentences and lists.
  7. Keep language real. Use real words rather than jargon (e.g., using "task" as a verb).
  8. Use headings. Use numerous article, section, and paragraph headings to lead the reader through the document.

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