Let’s spend the next few posts talking about the key principles that lead to strong writing. As you may know, I focus on Three Rules for Writing. (Speak human. Lead from the top. Explain what to do next.) But as I coach lawyers in one-to-one sessions, I emphasize a dozen-plus techniques—concrete principles that I find myself referring to again and again.
I want to keep each post short and sweet, so I’ll post the tips one by one. (Confession: My dozen-plus tips actually total 17, but the entire list fits easily in two pages.) I’ll also post the running list, as we build it, below the newly posted tip. So stay with me and here we go:
Rule One: Speak Human
Speak human. Write in plain English. If you would not use a word or phrase when speaking with a colleague, don’t use it in your writing. (By the way, plain English does not mean simple English. You are entitled to use your massive vocabulary, but use that vocabulary to convey nuance and precision—not to show off.)
Say your sentences out loud.
P. S. These techniques are a nutshell summary of the key principles in my book, The Lawyer’s Essential Guide to Writing (ABA 2011). Follow the link to see what people have said about the book or to order it from the ABA, Amazon or Itunes.