I call writers who draft paragraphs “stuffed with dates” disinterested historians. These disinterested historians begin or end sentence after sentence with “on X date . . . .”
Using time markers rather than specific dates makes a paragraph flow. Words and phrases such as
· Nearly two years later
· After Smith and Jones signed the contract
· Within a month
add context when the specific dates aren’t necessary for resolution of the issue and make the statement of facts flow more like a story.
A good example comes from brief in support of a TRO filed by Neal Katyal in litigation over President Trump’s second executive order banning people from certain countries from entering the United States. Though he includes some key dates as well, Katyal employs this technique in outlining the events leading up to the travel ban:
Later, as the presumptive Republican nominee, Mr. Trump began using facially neutral language to describe the Muslim ban. . . .
Throughout the campaign, Mr. Trump also made clear that his plans extended to disfavoring Muslim refugees while favoring their Christian counterparts.
After his election, the President-Elect signaled that he would not retreat from his Muslim ban.
Sometimes dates are critical. When they are, of course the writer should include them. But when they aren’t, writers can employ this excellent technique to tell the client’s story in a more interesting and readable way.