July 01, 2014

On the Papers: The Number Two Problem in Legal Writing: Solved

Discover how the writing of many lawyers gives readers a mixed message.

George D. Gopen

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The number one problem in legal writing in this country, which afflicts more than 90 percent of legal writers, is the failure to place the most important information in the sentence’s stress position. The stress position is any moment of full syntactic closure—signaled by the presence of a period or a properly used colon or semicolon. For a fuller discussion on the stress position, see my earlier article in this series, The Importance of Stress: Indicating the Most Important Words in a Sentence, Litigation, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Fall 2011), at 20–21. Failing to place the material to be emphasized in a stress position will disguise its importance far more often than one might imagine.

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