On Demand

Empathy for the Reader: Persuasive Legal Writing in Plain Language

1h 16m

Created on June 16, 2018




The problem with most legal writing is that it’s written for the writer’s benefit—not the reader’s.

That’s why it's notorious for convoluted sentences, ad hominem attacks, pompous vocabulary, and conclusory analyses. And, unfortunately for the writer, these are traits that most readers—including judges—hate.

Presented by appellate attorney Dana Heitz, this presentation relies on case law to illustrate the fundamentals of writing that’s easy to understand and more likely to stick—in other words, we learn from courts themselves how to write in a reader-friendly way. After discussing the perils of bad writing, we explore why writers should keep themselves out of the spotlight and how they can, then review strategies that simplify a message. Finally, we look at empirical and anecdotal evidence which underscores the impact that plain-language, reader-focused writing can have on a client’s case.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe bad habits that pervade the legal profession; identify characteristics of good writing
  2. Recognize discrete steps within the writing process necessary for a well-structured, polished product
  3. Explore the extent to which bad writing impacts a reader’s assessment of an argument’s credibility, and identify specific instances where confusing writing has had practical costs

This course originally appeared as a part of our June 2018 Bridge the Gap Event.

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