LawProse Lesson #274: Introducing quotations with an effective lead-in.
After you’ve chosen the perfect quotation from a case, statute, treatise, etc.—and deftly cut it to 49 or fewer words (as we discussed in Lesson # 273)—it’s time to tailor a lead-in that will effectively weave the quotation into the text. Some lawyers drop quotations into the text with no introduction at all. Others improve that slightly by leading in with phrases such as: the court stated as follows:, or according to a noted expert:, or the statute reads in pertinent part:. But these intros are stale and can make the quotation fall flat (if it’s even read). You need an informative opening to keep your reader interested. So what’s the best technique? Be specific and assert something. Then let the quotation support your argument. Here are two good examples: (1) The statute specifies three conditions that a trustee must satisfy to be fully indemnified: (2) The Fullerton court found that Ohio’s export laws are stricter than its in-state regulations: Crafting your lead-in to say what your quotation does for you gives you four benefits. First, it becomes more likely that the quotation will actually get read because the reader will know why you’ve quoted it. Second, you’ll enhance your credibility once the reader sees that the quotation does what you say it does. Third, because you’ll be asserting something specific, your quotations will almost certainly become shorter and more pointed. And fourth, even if the reader skips the quotation altogether, the introduction ensures that the thread of your argument will continue to flow through the text. It takes practice to write an effective lead-in, but it’s worth it. This technique will surely improve your writing and, most important, bolster your persuasiveness. Further reading: The Winning Brief 501–07 (3d ed. 2014). Legal Writing in Plain English 101–03 (2d ed. 2013).