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How can I improve my legal writing?

Write better legal contracts

Whether you are motivated enough to study Legal English with a tutor or you choose to learn with books such as this one, the ability to write well in English is a strong requirement for the competent international lawyer.


Use passive voice when it makes sense

There has been a lot of effort from proponents of plain English to encourage more writers to use the active voice. While we cannot disagree with that, the passive is sometimes necessary for the flow and cohesion of a sentence.


"The suspect was arrested and taken to the Central Police Station." (passive)

"The police arrested the suspect and took him to the Central Police Station." (active)


In the first example, passive voice seems smoother than the active sentence. We can assume that the police arrested the suspect (who else has the authority?) so we can leave that word out.


Adverbs can help you out - but think before you use them

While adverbs can sometimes be used as a lazy way of explaining something, they are useful for the reader in making better sense of what is happening.


Native speakers are guilty of using 'very' or 'very very' to denote how strongly they feel about something. This is very lazy (extraordinarily lazy?) and does not help the listener or reader at all. It would be far better to find a more descriptive word (lethargic, torpid) or a better adverb (extremely for example).


For more on improving your writing in Legal English, try this page.


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