Five Principles for Effective Legal Writing

Try incorporating one or more of these principles into your game plan for revising a piece of writing. These principles are used to rate the samples submitted during Orientation:

  1. Purpose: The writing should accomplish something. That purpose, along with your knowledge of audience, should determine the form, style, and tone of the writing. Formulate a claim or thesis statement that predicts your presentation clearly, and locate it prominently.

  2. Elaboration: Help the audience see your point: map out the reasoning behind the conclusion. Satisfy your audience's need for unity and coherence by building paragraphs that support topic sentences with details; use examples and references to sources as evidence to illustrate your points. Craft sentences to embody thought structures, logical relationships, and clear connections.

  3. Power/Emphasis: Understand the audience's need for prediction and fulfillment, unity and coherence. Carefully use emphatic positions for powerful paragraphs and sentences. As a general rule, place the familiar at the beginning, the new and more-complicated at the end.

  4. Economy: Your audience is usually pressed for time, so address their need for economy. Use fewer words in more effective sentences and phrases.

  5. Clarity: You will usually get your message across to your audience best if you make your main “characters” (agents) the subjects and the important actions the verbs of your sentences. Choose well-suited and precise words.