Bench & Bar

SEP 2018

The Bench & Bar magazine is published to provide members of the KBA with information that will increase their knowledge of the law, improve the practice of law, and assist in improving the quality of legal services for the citizenry.

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Concise Writing Tips for By: Jennifer Jolly-Ryan S Some writers think big words and long, complicated sentences impress their readers. They do just the oppo- site. 1 They are like the person Ranger Captain Jake Cutter describes in the 1961 John Wayne movie, The Comancheros. Ranger Captain Jake Cutter urges Paul Regret to "[f]orget it! He's just spittin' out words to see where they splatter." Similarly, some writers spit out words and splatter them on the page with no purpose. As a result, the reader works much too hard to grasp the meaning of a sentence. Below are a few editing pointers to make sentences more concise and clear. The edited sentence above is also better than the first version because it is active instead of pas- sive. When a sentence's verb is used in the active voice, the subject does the acting: The defendant offered to settle. When a sentence's verb is used in the passive voice, the subject is acted upon: A settlement was offered by the defendant. The advantage to the active voice is that it is more direct and uses fewer words. It is more easily understood. USE ACTIVE VOICE. 2 Every sentence contains two types of words; work- ing words and glue words. Working words carry the important meaning of the sentence. They commu- nicate the message. Glue words simply hold the working words together. In concise legal writing, there should be more working words than glue words. If the proportion of glue words to working words is high, the writer should edit the sentence. First, underline the working words. EXAMPLE: A settlement was offered by the defendant. Second, rewrite the sentence. EXAMPLE: The defendant offered to settle. The edits make the sentence one-third shorter and the sentence still contains the three import- ant working words. The sticky glue words are cut from four to two. 1 CUT EXTRA WORDS. | SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 26 EFFECTIVE LEGAL WRITING

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