Writing Tips

Legal Writing Grammar and Usage

Our best writing tip? Edit for clarity and brevity with WordRake. It’s an automated in-line editor that checks for needless words, cumbersome phrases, clichés, and more.

Download a 7-Day Free Trial

The Longest Word You Need to Know

Why Anthropomorphism Can Hurt Your Writing

anthropomorphism 

  Originally the word meant to give human form and character to God. More commonly, it means to ascribe humanlike qualities to inanimate objects.

 

When lawyers anthropomorphize, they invite trouble with logic:

Plaintiff’s proposal attempts to shift the burden.

The proposal is a piece of paper; it can’t do anything. Instead of having the proposal act like a human, make the human act:

  In its proposal Plaintiff attempts to shift the burden.

Examples in a law practice abound:

 

The brief argues Defense counsel argues
The resignation explained The councilman explained
The decision ordered The judge ordered

 

But use common sense:

The statute requires an applicant . . . .

True, the statute doesn’t care what the applicant does, but to get humans in here to avoid anthropomorphism, we have to write something like:

The women and men of the 1983 Illinois legislature, who enacted the statute, require an applicant . . . .

I would leave it alone: The statute requires . . . .  Or write: Under the statute, an applicant must . . . .

But below you can easily put in humans (although some of the laity might argue we lawyers do not qualify):

Clooney Pitt provided the permitting team with a memorandum addressing federal regulations.  That memorandum determined that . . . .

Clooney Pitt provided the permitting team with a memorandum addressing federal regulations.  The Clooney lawyers determined that . . . .

Careful judges and lawyers avoid anthropomorphism. Be alert for the problem, and you will easily find a solution.

Writing Tips in Your Inbox

About Gary Kinder

Gary Kinder

WordRake founder Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for AMLAW 100 firms, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies. He’s also a New York Times bestselling author. As a writing expert and coach, Gary was inspired to create WordRake when he noticed a pattern in writing errors that he thought he could address with technology.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to help writers produce clear, concise, and effective prose. It saves time and gives confidence. Writing and editing has never been easier.

WordRake takes you beyond the merely grammatical to the truly great—the quality editor you’ve always wanted. See for yourself.

Download a 7-Day Free Trial

How Does it Work?

WordRake is editing software designed by writing expert and New York Times bestselling author Gary Kinder. Like an editor or helpful colleague, WordRake ripples through your document checking for needless words and cumbersome phrases. Its complex algorithms find and improve weak lead-ins, confusing language, and high-level grammar and usage slips.

WordRake runs in Microsoft Word and Outlook, and its suggestions appear in the familiar track-changes style. If you’ve used track changes, you already know how to use WordRake. There’s nothing to learn and nothing to interpret. Editing for clarity and brevity has never been easier.