In onze Workshops Legal English Writing Skills staan de Branch Out “7 Cs of Writing” centraal. Deze 7 Cs zijn: Clarity, Correctness, Courtesy, Conciseness, Cohesion, Consistency en Completeness (voor een korte beschrijving: zie hiernaast).
Onder de C van Conciseness het volgende:
In the context of writing, there are a number of interpretations of ‘conciseness’. These include: Trimming the fat ; Pruning out the dead wood ; Keeping it short and sweet.
Any legal document that can convey the same message in 10 pages rather than rambling on for 20 pages is definitely more reader-friendly. This does not mean that you should sacrifice important ideas or hack your document down to size; it means conveying important ideas in sufficient detail to ensure reader comprehension.
We found the following examples in texts written by Dutch lawyers. How would you make these sentences more concise?
- Latham & Watkins and our client are currently in negotiation regarding these proposals
- Both parties have acted in contravention of the terms of the treaty.
- Reed Smith has made the decision to undertake the representation of the defendant.
There are a number of techniques you can apply to make your writing more concise. However, in sentences 1-3 we would like to demonstrate the technique of avoiding nominalisation i.e. avoiding heavy verb-noun phrases e.g. write ‘conclude’ instead of ‘draw a conclusion’. Legal writers tend to favour nominalisations.
However, use of nominalisations results in a surplus of unnecessary words. How about this instead:
- Latham & Watkins and our client are currently
in negotiation regardingnegotiating these proposals
- Both parties have
acted in contravention ofcontravened the terms of the treaty.
- Reed Smith has
made the decisiondecided to undertake the representationrepresent ofthe defendant.
It’s a fact; English prefers active verbs to verb-noun phrases. If the ideal sentence length is 20-25 words, you can’t afford redundant words and phrases.
NB: There are certain occasions in legal writing when we need to use nominalisations . For example, lawyers do not agree to arbitrate, but to go to arbitration: arbitration is a defined legal process and should be referred to in its nominalised form.