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The Clear Drafter’s Toolbox

Ten Tools for Creating Clear
Legal Documents
3: Use active voice and avoid
1: Eliminate ambiguity & shape ü  Active voice = subject + verb + object
ü  Use strong verbs; not the noun form of
ü  Ambiguity is creating unintended those verbs.
meanings. Always avoid it! x utilize = use
ü  Vagueness is using flexible language. x are in agreement = agree
Sometimes we need vagueness to
avoid exhaustive lists and to create 6: Use lists and visuals to
intended flexibility in documents. help simplify data & complex
4: Eliminate excess words
ü  Get rid of words that do not add value.
ü  Avoid multi-word prepositions.
2: Define legal terms you x prior to = before
cannot avoid x because of the fact that = because
ü  Avoid complicated terms and Latin
ü  If you must use a legal term, 7: Eliminate “S” words
explain it. Most people prefer an x Shall (it is often misused)
explanation even if it adds some x Said (as in, “said contract.”)
length. x Same (As in, “I enjoyed same.”)
5: Use high-frequency words
x festooned = decorated
x disseminate = give
8: Avoid gender-specific language
ü  There are many options to avoid this.
ü  The singular “they” is becoming more widely
10: Drafting is an iterative process
ü  Understand the audience, purpose, & problems.
ü  Gather facts/data on these; consider focus groups for important
ü  Research the legal requirements.
ü  Classify, organize, & outline content.
ü  Plan an initial document design.
ü  Write a draft.
ü  Test for consequences & to identify gaps.
ü  Revise & add content.
ü  Tweak document design.
9: Document design is important ü  Revise, edit, & proofread.
ü  Organize topics by importance to the ü  User-test if a high-stakes document.
reader. ü  Revise & edit based on user testing.
ü  Use plenty of white space.
ü  Use informative headings.
ü  Use tables, charts, and graphics.
ü  Avoid too much highlighting

©2017, Christopher Trudeau