Basic grammar rules for legal documents

It is common practice that people receive legal documents, such as mortgages, police reports, complaints, etc., and then are left confused with what they get and read. In legal writing, there is much technical terminology and all texts are made up of complex sentences – all of this is enough to stump an average American, who doesn’t deal with much documentation in their everyday life.

The key to drafting this type of documentation that is easy to read is to use direct language and layman’s terminology and avoid misspelling. Here are some guidelines on how to write legal papers that are easy to both read and understand.

How to Write a Legal Document

Drafting legal documents requires some specific knowledge without which it is difficult, if not impossible, to end up with a text that is easy to read and understand. Below, there are a few steps to take to write a legal document properly:

1. Start planning to get started

This is how you can create the basis for your paper. First of all, you should decide on a few things. These are:

  • Your reader;
  • The purpose of your paper;
  • Topics that must be covered by the document;
  • Terminology that is to be used;
  • Other names and their duties that will be mentioned;
  • Resources that will be used for writing the text.

Once everything is established, it is time to do some planning: think about how much time you will need to write, review, revise, and edit the paper. Note that your paper may go through more than one revision and edit before it is finalized. Think about this ahead of time!

1. Create a concise and readable paper

Avoid using too long sentences and always strive for conciseness in your documentation. Before you start, decide on what terms you will use throughout your entire paper. This is how you will be able to avoid any confusion. Complex words should also be placed with simpler alternatives.

2. Be as Accurate as Possible

Remember that accuracy comes first. Therefore, make sure that everything you write is true and revised by an industry expert. Remember that even the smallest slip in your text can call into question the validity of your paper. 

3. Make sure that the provided information is easy to digest

It usually takes much time and effort to both draft and read legal texts. Therefore, it is so important to produce content that is easy to understand. You can do this by highlighting the important paragraphs of the paper. Note that writing clear technical documents includes the use of tags, reference points, and other highlights.

4. Check if all the necessary details are mentioned

As obvious as it may sound, legal texts must include all the necessary info and nothing should be missed out. When writing a legal document, it is also very important to understand what exactly is worth noticing and what is not. While legal documentation must be complete, no anecdotes and unnecessary explanations are allowed. Also, avoid using needless words: instead of writing “in many cases” say “often” and so forth.

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Brief Legal Grammar Guide

For many, grammar rules and spelling seem to be confusing, especially when it comes to legal documentation. Very often, the difference between words is so slight so that it is easy to misspell them when typing fast, not to mention those many grammar pitfalls that one needs to escape when drafting legal docs. So, there are many issues that cause difficulty even for the most seasoned professionals. Nevertheless, knowing the basics will help you overcome it more easily. Here are a few legal writing tips to consider:

1. Check grammar and spelling

All writing style tips start with the correct use of English grammar; however, when it comes to writing legal texts, the importance of grammar is even greater. Otherwise, ambiguity may occur. To be clear, make sure you follow grammar rules and use punctuation properly. In legal documentation, there is no place for any confusion; otherwise, your reader may get you wrong.

2. Avoid a passive voice in legal writing 

When you use an active voice, the chances of your audience getting confused are essentially lower. In a nutshell, it says who does what in a sentence. If you use a passive voice, your sentences will get much longer and thus this may be a cause for miscommunication. So, instead of writing “the packet was delivered by the sheriff” you should better say “the sheriff delivered the packet”. 

3. Be careful with imperatives

In contracts, wills, etc., imperatives are used for defining legal commitments. In short, they outline legal instructions. Usually, legal docs include such imperatives as “should”, “will”, “shall”, and “must”. The correct use of these words will help you make your point clear. For instance, we use “shall” when want to create a sense of duty and say “must” when we need to give some instructions.

4. Include direct language

Use it when you get to listing instructions. For instance, when you list rules, remember about direct language; otherwise, your reader may think that everything you write is optional when it is not. Examples of direct language are: “Fill out forms and submit them with the court”, “Make a copy of the papers and hand-deliver it to another party”, etc.

5. Ensure consistency

Make sure that your all content descriptions are consistent throughout the entire text. For this, avoid using a great number of variations to describe the same concept. By the way, this can confuse the reader. Using many synonyms in this case is unacceptable. Sticking to consistent wording will help you avoid any miscommunication. For instance, if you choose the word “house”, then use it throughout the entire doc and avoid changing between “dwelling”, “living quarters”, etc.

If you need to draft a legal doc but don’t feel like doing this yourself, you can always seek help from professionals. For example, paper writing services often have experience writers who are ready to prepare any legal paper for you, be it a will, contract, or any other doc, quickly and inexpensively. 

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