Improve Your Writing by Reading WriteToThePoint Newsletters

WordRakeI’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.