An Introduction to Legal Editing

“Please edit this.” Have you been asked this before by a friend, colleague, or supervising partner? What kind of edits do they want? Suggestions for content? Corrections of punctuation, spelling, or grammar? It can be a difficult and frustrating request. There are so many ways to go about editing a legal document. At LawProse, we have a two-edit-per-page rule. That is, if you’re asked to edit a document, you must make at least two good edits per page. They can be micro edits or macro edits, but they must improve the document in some way. The goal is to achieve a 90% acceptance rate: Professor Garner should approve and incorporate 90% of your edits into the new version. This discourages an editor from covering the page with numerous weak suggestions. A good editor makes many passes through a document, focusing on a few related things at a time. First, read for substantive or macro edits. Does the point emerge quickly? Are the arguments consistent? Have you chosen the right tone? Second, line-edit. You should make a few passes in this stage focusing on different areas each time. Are the headings consistent? Can you convert your be verbs into stronger verbs? Can you cut each sentence by 25%? Have you found all the punctuation errors or formatting problems? Third, make a final pass to tighten and polish. Reading the document aloud will help you to discover missing words and awkward phrasings that might otherwise elude you. Although you can easily make global fixes on the computer, printing the document and editing a hard copy is an invaluable step that shouldn’t be dismissed. To save time in the process, lawyers and their staff should feel at ease with standard editing marks. A well-edited page ought to have a familiar look. Here’s a chart of the standard editing marks. Next week: Put your skills to the test with an editing exercise!

Live seminars this year with Professor Bryan A. Garner: Advanced Legal Writing & Editing

Attend the most popular CLE seminar of all time. More than 215,000 people—including lawyers, judges, law clerks, and paralegals—have benefited since the early 1990s. You'll learn the keys to professional writing and acquire no-nonsense techniques to make your letters, memos, and briefs more powerful.

You'll also learn what doesn't work and why—know-how gathered through Professor Garner's unique experience in training lawyers at the country's top law firms, state and federal courts, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies.

Professor Garner gives you the keys to make the most of your writing aptitude—in letters, memos, briefs, and more. The seminar covers five essential skills for persuasive writing:

  • framing issues that arrest the readers' attention;
  • cutting wordiness that wastes readers' time;
  • using transitions deftly to make your argument flow;
  • quoting authority more effectively; and
  • tackling your writing projects more efficiently.

He teaches dozens of techniques that make a big difference. Most important, he shows you what doesn't work—and why—and how to cultivate skillfulness.

Register to reserve your spot today.

Have you wanted to bring Professor Garner to teach your group? Contact us at info@lawprose.org for more information about in-house seminars.

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