CBA Record July-August 2021

Writing the first draft Solo practitioner Bonnie McGrath shares a great tip on how to get over writer’s block and start writing: When writing anything, a good rule of thumb is to put whatever comes out of your head initially onto the page. It matters not if there are mistakes, misspellings or illogical thinking. Take your time checking all your information, grammar, spelling, logic and style. If you start out by trying to get everything perfect, you can become immobilized. Getting anything onto the page, knowing that it can be changed, deleted, refined, and perfected at your leisure is very freeing--even relaxing--and leads to a more perfect finished product. – Bonnie McGrath, Law Offices of Bonnie McGrath How to enhance the reader’s experience CBA Record Associate Editor Anne Ellis highlights three important factors to guide any writing project: For the best reader experience with any type of business or profes- sional writing, focus on three inter-related elements: (1) structure, (2) language, and (3) look – in that order. 1. Structure: Don’t bury the lead. What’s your main point? Don’t force the reader to try to figure it out. This applies on both macro levels (brief/blog/memo/message) and micro levels (section/para- graph/sentence). 2. Language: Make sure your writing is clear, concise, and correct. Learn to be a ruthless editor; don’t hesitate to use AI editing tools to save time. Upgrade your style – read a wide variety of good writing for a few minutes every day to enhance your ability to distinguish “good enough” from “much better.” 3. Look: Follow the rules if they apply! Otherwise, become familiar with basic design principles (e.g., balance, white space, strategic use of columns) so you can use them to support your message and enhance the reading experience for your particular readers. – Anne Ellis, Director, Proactive Worldwide, Inc. For more discussion of AI editing tools, see my Nota Bene column “AI for Legal Writing: The Bots Are Closer Than You Think, 34 CBA Record 40 (July/August 2020), For more discussion of document design principles, see my Nota Bene column “How Do I Look? Design Your Documents for Greater Legibility and Persuasion, 33 CBA Record 38 (November/December 2019), At the sentence level, attorney Pam Menaker advises writers to keep it simple: Amistake that many writers make is to try to jam toomany ideas into one sentence. It is best to try to clearly convey one idea in each sentence. If you find yourself stringing a number of commas, prepositional phrases, compound verbs, and other devices to say what you want, you probably should look at the sentence to see if you can say it more clearly in two. – Pamela Sakowicz Menaker, Clifford Law Offices For more discussion of plain language, see my Nota Bene column, Richard Wydick (1937-2016) – Better Writing with Plain English for Lawyers, 30 CBA Record 52 (September 2016), chicagobar/Record.


I n my last column, I compiled communication and writing tips for junior attorneys. Communication is Key: Writing Tips for Junior Attorneys (and Those Who Supervise Them) , 35 CBA Record 40 (January/February 2021), . This month, I have collected tips from CBA Record readers and Editorial Board members. Here we go! Advice from the bench We have the good fortune of receiving advice from two members of the Illinois Appellate Court. Justice Sharon O. Johnson instructs us how to present informa- tion: • Your job is to teach the judge/jury what you want them to know. • Address every factor of the relevant statute. Don’t take anything for granted or assume that it is obvious to the judge/jury. – Justice Sharon O. Johnson, Illinois Appellate Court Justice Michael B. Hyman reminds us how to write clearly and fairly: • Address arguments, not parties or their lawyers. • Be honest and accurate in describing the facts and presenting the law. • Avoid unnecessary details. • Prefer the simple over the complex. • Draw a roadmap with headings and subheadings. • Use familiar words. • Kick footnotes to the text. – Justice Michael B. Hyman, Illinois Appellate Court How to communicate with supervising attorneys Dan Cotter, former CBA president, reminds us that writing well also means communicating well with one’s supervising attorney. • Once you make a commitment of a timeline to provide another colleague with something, stick to it. • Seek to “shadow” colleagues you want to work with, offering to take on things to “audition.” • No question is a dumb question. Like the adage, measure twice, cut once; it’s better to ask away, and produce excellence. – Daniel A. Cotter, Howard & Howard Attorneys PLLC Writing Tips for Junior Attorneys (and ThoseWho Supervise Them) – Part 2 Kathleen Dillon Narko is a Clinical Professor of Law at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and a member of the CBARecord Editorial Board.

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