How to make your writing more accessible

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A lot of lawyers’ writing is formal and stilted, and I’m not just talking about legalese.

Using phrases like, “In order to” or “What’s more” or “Please note that” and the like–that’s formal.

Academic, archaic, stale.

If your writing sounds like Star Trek’s Data (no contractions), or Star War’s Yoda, (ass backwards), your writing could probably use a level 5 diagnostic.

There may be times when formal phrases are appropriate. But when you write to clients or prospective clients or to anyone you want to connect with, you’re usually better off ditching them.

Lose your inner professor. Take off your tux and tails. Take that stick out of that place where the sun don’t shine.

And write simply and informally. Not to impress but to communicate.

Formal language puts distance between you and the reader. Even when your reader is another lawyer.

Yes, sometimes you’ll catch me using formal phrases and ten-dollar words, but I try to avoid them because when I write to you, it’s supposed to be just the two of us, sitting on a porch, having a chat.

Why do we struggle to let down our hair? Because we’re professionals and we associate professionalism with formality. We’re uncomfortable being anything but, so we keep our distance.

And yet, when we give a presentation, we speak plainly, don’t we?

Correctamundo.

So, here’s a good rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t use a word or phrase in a speech or a private conversation, don’t use it in writing.

Here’s your homework:

The next time you write an email or article or letter, before you send it off to your victim, read it out loud and listen to how it sounds.

If it sounds like it was written by Chewbacca or Groot , put that thing through the universal translator before you send it.

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