Writing Wednesday: Wondertwin Powers…Activate!

Form of…the Grammar Ninja….

In my line of work I read a lot of writing, most of it technical but all of it supposedly professional. Many people assume that a legal degree and years of practice experience make attorneys solid writers.

Don’t ever forget what happens when you “assume.”*

Attorneys often fall into a trap that’s common to fiction writers too – they render their writing impenetrable by the addition of unnecessary terms and use of the passive case. Passive writing “sounds” more impressive to untrained ears, and many people think it represents an elevated style.

Those people are wrong.

Case in point: “Either party may terminate this agreement at any time on ten days’ written notice,” vs “During the term of this Agreement, the non-terminating party shall be provided at least ten days’ advance written notice by the party wishing to terminate the contract.”

Regardless of purpose, good writing needs to be clear, concise and readable. Restrictions on form and content don’t change or prevent that truth. When you set out to write, whatever you write, keep that reality in mind. Active is better than passive. Clear phrasing is better than muddied prose.

Simple advice, but important. Please keep it in mind. Your future readers will thank you.

*(For those who don’t know the old saw: “when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.”

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