Category Archives: Conciseness

Conciseness (1)

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?

  1. Latham & Watkins and our client are currently in negotiation regarding these proposals
  2. Both parties have acted in contravention of the terms of the treaty.
  3. 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:

  1. Latham & Watkins and our client are currently in negotiation regarding negotiating these proposals
  2. Both parties have acted in contravention of contravened the terms of the treaty.
  3. Reed Smith has made the decision decided to undertake the representation represent of the 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.