Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Garner on contractions

What's it going to take to convince you that contractions are okay in legal writing? Here is the biggest expert on legal writing in the country:
    Legal writers have developed a morbid fear of contractions. Maybe that's because they tend to counteract stuffiness--and legal writers everywhere tend to think they should sound stuffy. That's a major psychological cause of poor writing.

    In fact, the more conversational your style is, the more readable it becomes. This doesn't mean that you should become loose and slangy in your writing--just that you should try to be relaxed and natural. And contractions contribute a lot to that effect.

    Here's the test. If you would say it as a contraction, write it that way. If you wouldn't, then don't.
Bryan A. Garner, Securities Disclosure in Plain English 22 (CCH 1999).

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