CBA Record July-August 2021

Attorney Richard Stavins reminds us of basic grammar rules identifying subjects and objects – and touches on one of my personal pet peeves: Use the objective case for pronouns that are objects, not subjects, of the sentence — even though nominative case sounds much more high-falootin’ and therefore must be correct but isn’t. Thus: “I went with him and her,” not “I went with he and she;” “...between you and me...” not “...between you and I...” – Richard Stavins, Robbins, Saloman & Patt, Ltd Editing your work Legal writing experts advise you spend as much time editing your work as you do writ- ing the initial draft. Below are some helpful tips for your next editing project. Attorney Ted Kontopoulos shares an interesting tip for focusing on and strength- ening topic sentences: Topic sentences should either connect the current paragraph to the prior one’s idea or frame the beginning of a new idea in a thematic or temporal way. Among other things, a topic sentence’s strength is mea- sured by how well it advances the flow of your argument, narrative, or timeline. Before sending yourmemo, brief, or letter to your boss or client, consider creating a second version of your document for self-review. To test the strength of topic sentences in this second version, recall the objective conclusion or the persuasive theme you wish to convey. Next, delete or black highlight all sentences following each paragraph’s topic sentence. Finally, review what is left and assess whether the remaining topic sentences properly express your argument or conclusion thematically, temporally, or both. Does any topic sentence belong as a conclusion to a prior paragraph? Is any topic sentence so detailed that it merits splitting into two paragraphs? Do the topic sentences

writing to catch any inconsistencies. Then, eliminate them. – Daniel J. Berkowitz, Illinois Attor- ney General’s Office Have others review your work Finally, it is important to remember to work as a team. Attorney Andrew Grill tells us to keep the ultimate goal top of mind – produc- ing the best writing for one’s client: I’ve been practicing for 15 years, mostly handling federal civil rights cases. Writ- ing is at the center of nearly everything I do. I was fortunate to have some great writing mentors, but one thing that also helped me quite a bit along the way (and still does) was finding someone with a good work ethic to team up with to review and revise each other’s work. This collaborative approach reliably made our individual work product better. As a result, I often tell the younger attorneys at my firm that good legal writing does not have to take place in a vacuum – talk to each other and critique each other’s work. The point is that what goes out the door is as good as it can be. The point is NOT that every idea or every word was your own. – Andrew Grill, Rock Fusco & Con- nelly, LLC Thank you to all the attorneys who shared their legal writing tips for junior attorneys and those who supervise them. Writing well is a lifelong goal; one we keep working toward every day. My college advi- sor at Yale, William Cronin, said, “If you think writing is easy, you are not writing well.” It helps to take a step back and collect advice from many good writers. I hope you found a few tips you can use to improve your own writing or share with someone else. CBA RECORD 49

set up the sequence of events properly? –Theodore S. Kontopoulos, BKD, LLP Two attorneys, Trisha Rich and Claire McMahon, suggest incorporating more senses to help one find errors. Both say that reading text aloud can make a difference: One thing I find very valuable is to actu- ally read my work product deliberately out loud prior to submitting it – I tend to catch errors this way that my eyes glide right over when I’m reading silently to myself. – Trisha M. Rich, Holland & Knight LLP My best writing tip: read the entire docu- ment out loud in public speaking voice. If you trip over a sentence, it needs to be rewritten. – Clare McMahon, Hof fenberg & Block, LLC John Levin’s tip shows why leaving time to edit is important: In one of the final rewrites, carefully delete all duplications. It is surprising how often you say the same thing twice, which reduces the overall impact of the statement. The truth is that the most important rule in writing is to be consistent. If you randomly capitalize the word “Motion” or “Plaintiff” in some portions of your memo, but not others; if you go back and forth between using the Oxford comma and omitting it; if your motion includes some quotes with angled quotation marks and some with straight quotation marks, then your writing as a whole will suffer, and you will appear less credible to your reader (be it partner, judge, or public). Always take time to reread your – John Levin Be consistent:

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