What Ulysses S. Grant can teach legal writers about cultivating clarity #writinglegally

Posted on 07-22-2015 by
Tags: writinglegally , legal writing , Upgrading Your Skills , #writinglegally

If you want any piece of writing to be effective, it must have clarity. The reader should not be left with any doubt about exactly what you mean. The ability to clarify things is a trait many good writers possess. One person that is highly-regarded as a good writer was the 18th President of the United States- Ulysses S. Grant.

In fact, according to ALWD, Grant once described his own writing using terms similar to terms one would use when defining “clarity.” Recalling the events of April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House, Virginia Grant wrote:

“When I put my pen to the paper I did not know the first word that I should make use of in writing the terms. I only knew what was in my mind, and I wished to express it clearly, so that there could be no mistaking it.”

This short passage by Grant revealed the two essential aspects of clarity in writing:

1.Clear thought

2.Clear expression

Once all your thoughts are clear, you must identify a way to clearly convey your ideas in a simple and direct way. When it comes to legal writing, the writer’s primary goal is to make documents easier for the person to read.

When Grant wrote he developed the following habits that help improve clarity:

1. Consider Audience

When I put my pen to the paper I did not know the first word that I should make use of in writing the terms. I only knew what was in my mind, and I wished to express it clearly, so that there could be no mistaking it.

 

2. Adopt a Simple and Direct Style

“[General Taylor] knew how to express what he wanted to say in the fewest well-chosen words, but would not sacrifice meaning to the construction of high-sounding sentences.”

 

3. Write with Scrupulous Accuracy

“I would like to see truthful history written. Such history will do full credit to the courage, endurance and soldierly ability of the American citizen, no matter what section of the country he hailed from, or in what ranks he fought.”

If you found the above tip to be helpful, you can track all of our writing content via LexTalk. Check out other LexTalk posts >>

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Think your legal writing’s good? Imagine it being better. Your success depends on your writing. Writing tips to help you sharpen your legal communications. For a no-obligation free trial of Lexis® for Microsoft Office, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/microsoftoffice_lextalk

 

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