The topic of today's post is overstatement. An example of overstatement can be found in the title of today's post, in which I suggest that overstatement might be the only writing problem that really matters.
Well, not really. It is important, though. At Robust Writing, Jesse Hines explains the concept in "Overstatements: An Enemy of Honest and Accurate Writing"--
When you overstate something, you’re stating it too strongly, exaggerating the merits of your idea.
Overstating things can undercut your overall argument and diminish anything else you have to say in the eyes of your readers, potentially propelling them to ignore you altogether.
If you engage in overstatement, you won't be able to maintain your credibility as a legal writer, as I noted in my article, "Five Steps Towards Persuasive Writing." Hines makes a similar point and quotes from Strunk and White--
When you overstate, readers will be instantly on guard, and everything that has preceded your overstatement as well as everything that follows it will be suspect in their minds because they have lost confidence in your judgment or your poise. Overstatement is one of the common faults. A single overstatement, wherever or however it occurs, diminishes the whole, and a single carefree superlative has the power to destroy, for readers, the object of your enthusiasm.
Overstatement weakens the force of your legal arguments. Add it to the list of problems you check for during self-edits.
Link from Celia C. Elwell and Raymond Ward at the (new) legal writer.