I’m a little irritated with Wordrake because the company hasn’t shipped its Mac version yet. Wordrake is a word processing plugin that will automatically analyze your written text and provide recommended edits for precision and clarity. I have no idea how well it works from my own experience, but if you visit the Wordrake.com website I predict you will be impressed by the company’s ability to reduce clutter in your verbiage. If I was a PC guy I would have tried it months ago.
Even though I may wait forever for the Mac or iOS version of Wordrake to ship, I’m still a fan of the company because their email newsletters are great. I look forward to all of them. Every day or so, a new version of Wordrake’s newsletter, Write to the Point, appears in my inbox. I usually stop what I’m doing and read the tip. For example, here is Tip #37, which is called One Easy Way to Weaken Your Case:
Use the word “indicate,” as in:
In April 2011, 3M conducted groundwater infiltration studies that indicated the North Pond contributed 25 percent of the flows to the seep.
“Indicate” means to communicate in an indirect manner, yet many lawyers use it as though it meant “said,” “promised,” “stated,” “claimed,” “declared.”
The sentence above says that the people who conducted the studies weren’t positive, but they think that maybe the North Pond might have contributed about a quarter of the flows. If the lawyer meant that, then this is acceptable; but if the lawyer meant that the studies were conclusive, she should have replaced “indicated” with “revealed” or “proved.”
It gets worse when we have a human “indicating.” If someone says something to someone else, and he’s not speaking in euphemisms, displaying signs, or using body language to convey the real message, he’s not “indicating.”
Bauer indicated that he was not aware of the cost overruns and would further review the budget.
This means that Bauer said something or did something in a way that led you (or your client) to believe he was not aware of the overruns. Someone else, like a judge, might interpret the “indication” differently. And therein lies the problem: Using “indicate” leaves open whether another observer could have interpreted the “indication” differently; this causes judges to wonder. And question. Lawyers often weaken their position by writing “indicated,” rather than using the strong, direct word they mean.
P.S. I frequently see a version of the following, which not only weakens the argument, but also is oxymoronic:
Laws clearly indicate that [statute] is not applicable to the underlying contract.
We can’t “clearly communicate indirectly.” (Although some of us try.)
It will be a long time before I use the word indicate again.
Here’s a list of all 37 tips to date:
Tip #1 – The #1 Sign of Verbiage
Tip #2 – Three Words Many Lawyers Misuse
Tip #3 – The Thelma and Louise Sentence
Tip #4 – Three More Words Many Lawyers Misuse
Tip #5 – The #2 Sign of Verbiage
Tip #6 – Farmers Market Syndrome
Tip #7 – A Unique Problem
Tip #8 – Still Another Three Words Many Lawyers Misuse
Tip #9 – Three Words That Aren’t
Tip #10 – i.e. and e.g.
Tip #11 – People
Tip #12 – Only
Tip #13 – Hopefully
Tip #14 – Lay vs. Lie
Tip #15 – Clearly
Tip #16 – Should I use the “Oxford” comma?
Tip #17 – Never Ever Ever Write These Adjectives…
Tip #18 – You Can, But You May Not
Tip #19 – Where There’s an “It,” There’s a “That”
Tip #20 – 6 Sentence Openings That Aggravate Judges
Tip #21 – Three Ways to Make a Judge Chuckle
Tip #22 – One, Often Fatal, Mistake Lawyers Make…
Tip #23 – Absolutely the Worst Problem Since Passive Voice
Tip #24 – The Best-Kept Writing Secret of All Time
Tip #25 – The 10 Myths of Legal Writing
Tip #26 – 6 Classic Legal Redundancies to Avoid
Tip #27 – The Most Irritating ‘Words’ Lawyers Use
Tip #28 – 2 Excellent Ways to Tell a Judge You Have No Case
Tip #29 – Of Lawyers, Sharks, and Hemingway
Tip #30 – A Secret Writing Weapon
Tip #31 – Six Questions Every Associate Should Ask
Tip #32 – One Simple Way to Enliven Your Writing
Tip #33 – The Longest Word Judges and Lawyers Need to Know
Tip #34 – The Best Way to Open a Client Letter (Part 1 of 3)
Tip #35 – The Best Way to Open a Client Letter (Part 2 of 3)
Tip #36 – The Best Way to Open a Client Letter (Part 3 of 3)
Tip #37 – One Easy Way to Weaken Your Case
Wordrake was created by Gary Kinder, self-professed lawyer, New York Times bestselling author, and writing expert for the American Bar Association. Here’s Gary’s bio from his website, kinderlegal.com:
Since 1988, lawyer and author Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs at Jones Day, WilmerHale, Sidley, Bingham, Dorsey, Skadden, Latham, and other prestigious law firms; and to the legal departments at companies like PG&E, KPMG, and Microsoft. Lawyers have frequently evaluated his one-day seminar, “Writing Techniques for Winning Cases,” as the best CLE they have ever attended.
For the American Bar Association, Gary created a series of three, one-hour, online, interactive CLEs, “Advanced Writing for Lawyers.” For several years, he taught all live writing programs offered by the ABA, and in 2012 presented additional writing programs for ABA Webinars. He has also taught writing techniques to the judges of the Ninth Circuit. He currently offers writing tips and techniques on WriteToThePoint.com.
Besides teaching lawyers and judges how to improve their writing, Gary has published three books of narrative nonfiction. His critically-acclaimed Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea, hit #7 on the New York Times Bestsellers List.
In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers launched WordRake, U.S.-patented editing software, to provide writers with a full-time, reliable editor; to save them time and money; and to give them the confidence that their writing is as clear and concise as they can make it.
I don’t know if I can entice Gary to travel to Baltimore to teach my solo practice to write better, but I can subscribe to his great blog and improve my writing one tip at a time.