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Wordiness

Rao H D
27 November 2012  
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“Wordiness is to a writer what obesity is to a runner.” — Ronald Goldfarb and James Raymond, Clear Understandings,Random House, New York, 1982.

“Legal writing, despite centuries of criticism (constructive and otherwise) remains steadfastly awful.” —Theodore L. Blumberg, The Seven Deadly Sins of Legal Writing (2008)

A big problem with legal writing is wordiness--using several words when one will do.  We can often improve our writing by cutting out unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.

For example:

1. My client is desirous of purchasing the immovable property being the site situated in. (A public notice in a leading newspaper). Stripped of wordiness, it means ‘my client wants to buy the site in.’

2. A will is ambulatory in character and subject to change at any time.

(A will is ambulatory or A will is always subject to change (while the testator lives).

3. These two paragraphs are the least legible and the most difficult to read. (Omit and the most difficult to read).

4. My client has entered into an agreement for the purchase of.

(My client has agreed to buy.)

5. In the event of the loss of your LIC policy.

(If you lose your LIC policy.)

Even judges occasionally confess as much about their own writing. For example: “This opinion is too long. I apologize for its length but simply didn’t have time to write a short one.”-- (U.S v. Price), Garner, DMLU, 242.

Professor Strunk put it well: “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”— William Strunk, & E B White, The Elements of Style, second edn. page 17

One of George Orwell’s six timeless guidelines for effective writing is: “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.”—Politics and the English Language, 1946

Let me give you an analogy. Think of your writing in the same way you think about all the stuff you own. Now think of having a garage sale. What you put into your garage sale is the junk that has been hanging around for a long time. At first, you feel a little reluctant to see it all go, but then, with your new, uncluttered world, you feel light, clean, and fresh.

Apply this to your writing. Keep the good stuff, and get rid of the clutter that has been hanging around in your writing.

 

By: Rao H D


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