Diction in Legal Documents - Less is More
Less is more, in prose as in architecture. Donald Hall In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigor it will give your style. Sydney Smith
John Trimble writes that most of us write as if we're being paid a dime a word (that's especially true for lawyers) when, in fact, a skilled writer should write as if he were paid a dime for every word that he deletes. Prose, he says, should be concise with every word of every sentence working at maximum efficiency.
This week an opposing lawyer transmitted a lengthy settlement agreement that contained the following paragraph:
Within ten (10) days of the Effective Date, the Parties shall file or cause to be filed an Agreed Motion to Dismiss all Parties' Claims and submit a proposed Agreed Order of Dismissal regarding same and, reasonably promptly thereafter, obtain an Agreed Order of Dismissal dismissing all claims asserted by all of the Parties with prejudice to the refiling of the same, with costs to be taxed against the Party incurring same.
Here's my revision:
The Parties, within ten days of the Effective Date, shall file an Agreed Motion to Dismiss All Parties' Claims and submit a proposed Agreed Order of Dismissal for dismissing the Parties' claims with prejudice. Each Party will bear his own costs.
Trimble asks, "What's the chief difference between a skillful writer and a mediocre one?" He answers his own question, "The skillful writer is prepared to take many more pains to say it cleanly."