December 07, 2017 Articles

Cleaning Up Quotations in Legal Writing

The inside scoop on 2017's hottest new citation tool: "cleaned up."

By Jason P. Steed – December 7, 2017

Everyone knows that you’re supposed to avoid block quotations because they’re hard to read. But it’s actually not a bad idea to avoid quotations altogether.

Avoiding Quotations in General
Quotations require extra punctuation—not just the quotation marks themselves but also the brackets and ellipses that are often necessary to tailor the quotation to the grammatical context of your paragraph. These extra marks can clutter the page.

And often this clutter is unnecessary because the direct quotation is unnecessary. Did you really need to quote the court’s standard of review? Did you really need to quote six lines of Q and A from the witness’s deposition? Most of the time, the answer is no. The precise wording wasn’t really that important.

By paraphrasing and summarizing instead of quoting, you can often craft a less stilted and more succinct legal argument or factual narrative that is easier to read—and therefore more compelling. So, use fewer quotations. Quote only when the precise wording matters—as in the wording of a contract or statute. Or quote when, for example, the court’s articulation of its holding or rationale is particularly memorable or powerful.

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