Oxford Commas. Check for consistent use.
Sidenotes. Set off asides with commas, parentheses, or em-dashes. Treat these marks as paired punctuation that must be closed unless the phrase ends the sentence.
Independent Clauses. Separate them appropriately with a semicolon, period, or conjunction with a comma.
Superfluous, Stray, or Omitted Commas.Unnecessary commas make sentences difficult to read. Use commas only to set off a longer prepositional phrase at the beginning of a sentence; at the end of a conditional clause (usually beginning with if or when), when separating two independent clauses joined by a conjunction; before the final and in a series; for parenthetical asides; and after the year in a date (if the day is also given).
Simplify and Shorten. Replace unnecessarily complex words with simpler ones. Cut repetitive sentences and paragraphs. Tighten prose, rephrase passive voice, and remove lazy phrasing.
Eliminate Legalese. Replace legalese with standard English expressions. Avoid legal Latin.
Check for Repetition. Eliminate or replace words repeated too often, but do not vary word choice without purpose.
Powerful Parties. Confirm that your party references are easily understood throughout your document. Consider naming outside parties according to their relationship to your client, like “Defendant’s Mother.”
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About the Author
Ivy B. Grey is the Chief Strategy & Growth Officer for WordRake. Prior to joining the team, she practiced bankruptcy law for ten years. In 2020, Ivy was recognized as an Influential Woman in Legal Tech by ILTA. She has also been recognized as a Fastcase 50 Honoree and included in the Women of Legal Tech list by the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center. Follow Ivy on Twitter @IvyBGrey or connect with her on LinkedIn.