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« The Goals of Clear Writing | Main | Why Is Muddled Writing Commonplace? »

August 04, 2004


Benjamin Barr

"Muddled Writing" is so commonplace because it takes instruction, time, devotion, practice and humility to master the art. These are not traits commonly practiced in modern society. Quite simply, many lawyers will not take the time necessary to improve their writing.

The clear, concise writer always has the interests of his audience in mind -before- he writes. The same writer also organizes and thinks about the issues, and his conclusions, before he starts writing. For many, this seems like extra, insignificant steps in the writing process that take up more of their time. However, the payoff is large because the effectiveness of your advocacy increases dramatically when your writing is simplified and addresses the concerns of your audience.

Ordinarily, most audiences appreciate clear, concrete, and organized (read: use titles and subtitles) briefs. Being effective in writing this way normally means using an editor and practice, practice, practice.

In short, few lawyers take the time necessary to outline their briefs and organize their material efficiently for successful advocacy. Fewer still take time to seriously think about their audience before writing their briefs.

To be a good writer, a lawyer will, on a regular basis, return to the elements of style to continually improve his approach. This requires a lawyer who: (1) is humble (able to learn), (2) is dedicated to good writing (has made this value choice), and (3) has devoted time to improving his writing.


Benjamin Barr
Staff Attorney, Nineteenth Judicial Circuit


Well said.


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