Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wordiess and Verbosity

I’ve been working hard lately to remove excess words and phrases and sentences that begin with “There is/are” from my writing. I’m still a work in progress, but here are some of the specific phrases that make their way into many lawyers’ writing, including mine:

Wordy Phrase

Better Option

As a result of…


In the event that…


For the purpose of…


Has an effect upon


In a timely/prompt manner…


Due to the fact that…


Adequate number of…


During such time as…

In his book Plain English for Lawyers, Richard Wydick has a list of additional compound constructions and good alternatives. And Daily Writing Tips has a helpful list of 50 plain-language substitutes for wordy phrases here.

I’m also attempting to remove sentences that start with “There is/are.” These sentences often are unnecessarily lengthy and confusing. For example:

There are three reasons why the court should dismiss this case.

The court should dismiss this case for three reasons.

The second sentence is shorter and more direct.

And I’m trying to nix “the fact that” from my writing—it’s rarely necessary. For example:  

The fact that the defendant initially lied to the police is irrelevant.

The defendant’s initial lies to police are irrelevant.

If you are like me, you must work hard to clean up wordiness in your writing. It won’t come naturally. You’ll need lots of practice. But the payoff will be big—better, more straightforward writing.

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