LawProse Lesson #251: Considerations in legal editing.

LawProse Lesson #251: Considerations in legal editing.

Three important considerations in legal editing. It’s best to use single-minded focus when editing the different parts of documents. Certain editing approaches may apply to particular sections of a document. Here are three practical examples:
  1. Revisit the issue presented. In your issue statement, you want to be sure that you don’t state as a fact any legal or factual conclusion that the court or fact-finder will have to decide in resolving the issue. Once you have completed your memo or brief, reconsider your issue statement. Make sure that it (1) avoids improper conclusory statements, (2) includes the key facts on which resolution of the issue will be based (and only the key facts), and (3) phrases the question properly. Which key facts to include can vary with the type of document.
  1. Reconcile facts and discussion. In a research memo, be sure that you have included all the relevant facts in the statement of facts and that you have addressed all these relevant facts in the discussion. Check your statement of facts and your discussion twice. First, highlight the facts mentioned in the discussion and confirm that they are introduced (preferably in chronological order) in the statement of facts. If they aren’t, add them. Then, in the fact section, highlight those facts mentioned in the discussion. For any fact not highlighted, decide whether to (1) add it to the discussion section, (2) take it out, or (3) leave it in as relevant or helpful background.
  1. Comb out argumentative and reasoning words from fact sections. Regardless of what type of document you’re preparing—whether predictive or persuasive—don’t let argumentative words (such as clearly or obviously) or reasoning words (such as therefore or thus) invade the statement of facts. Those words amount to editorializing, which has no place in a statement of facts. They undermine your credibility when they appear there.
Further reading: The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style § 13, at 359–66 (3d ed. 2013).

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