Tips for attorneys - from a children's novelist

Photo from C.S. Lewis Wikipedia

Photo from C.S. Lewis Wikipedia

We are rewarded in school for using sentences so complex, that the reader or listener is virtually tortured by them.  As grown up lawyers this means we tend to spout legalese to normal people.  How as trial lawyers do we shrug off these intellectual habits.  So we can tell a good story.

Look at these tips from C.S. Lewis (he of The Chronicles of Narnia fame).  This is taken from a letter he wrote to a young Fan in 1956.

What really matters is:–

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn't mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don't implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean "More people died" don't say "Mortality rose."

4. In writing. Don't use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was "terrible," describe it so that we'll be terrified. Don't say it was "delightful"; make us say "delightful" when we've read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, "Please will you do my job for me."

5. Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

This is pretty good advice.