Legal Writing

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LEGAL WRITING 201

30 SUGGESTIONS TO IMPROVE READABILITY
OR

HOW TO WRITE FOR JUDGES, NOT LIKE JUDGES

JUDGE MARK P. PAINTER
OHIO FIRST DISTRICT COURT OF APPEALS

Legal Writing 201
JUDGE MARK P. PAINTER
OHIO FIRST DISTRICT COURT OF APPEALS TAFT LAW CENTER 230 EAST NINTH STREET CINCINNATI, OHIO 45202 513-946-3444 – FAX 946-3411 mpainter@cms.hamilton-co.org www.judgepainter.org

........................................................... Introduction to Legal Writing ........................................................... 4 .......................................................... Rule 1. Know Your Audience .......................................................... 7 FrontDocument— Rule 2. Front-Load your Document—Context Before Detail ............. 8 nt Rule 3. Frame the Issue in Fewer than 75 Words ............................ 9 ............................................... Rule 4. State the Facts Succinctly ............................................... 10 Overchronicling— Rule 5. Avoid Overchronicling—Most Dates are Unimportant........ 10 Unimportant........ Signposts— Rule 6. Headings are Signposts—They Should Inform ................... 11 ..................................................... Rule 7. Write Short Paragraphs..................................................... 11 Paragraphs ................................ Important— Rule 8. Form is Important—Make it Look Good ............................. 12 9. Carefully................................ ........................................ Rule 9. Check your Document Carefully ........................................ 12 Short— Rule 10. Keep it Short—the Page Limit is Your Friend .................. 13 ............................................... Rule 11. Use No Talking Footnotes............................................... 13 Footnotes ................................ ................................................ Rule 12. Citations go in Footnotes ................................................ 14 .......................................... Rule 13. Use the Ohio form of Citation.......................................... 14 Citation................................ ................................................................ ................................. Rule 14. Edit, Edit, Edit ................................................................. 15 Sentences— Rule 15. Write Short Sentences—the 1818 Rule, Part I ................. 16 Voice— Rule 16. Use Mainly Active Voice—the 1818 Rule, Part II ........... 16 Rule 17. Use “But” and “And” to Begin Sentences ........................ 17

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Rule 18. Distinguish Between “That” and “Which” ........................ 17 “That” Rule 19. Use the Dash, Parenthesis, and Comma for Degrees of ....................................... Emphasis ....................................................................... 18 ................................................................ ........................................... Rule 20. One Word is Usually Enough ........................................... 18 .......................................... Rule 21. No Parenthetical Numericals .......................................... 18 ........................................ Rule 22. Hyphenate Phrasal Adjectives ........................................ 19 “Of”................................ ...................................................... Rule 23. Always Question “Of” ...................................................... 19 .................................................... Rule 24. Use the Serial Comma .................................................... 19 ........................................ Rule 25. Avoid Unnecessary Preambles........................................ 20 Preambles ................................ ............................................................. Rule 26. Purge Lawspeak ............................................................. 20...
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