Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sentence problem 11--throat-clearers

When you lead in to an idea with a little phrase to get you started or to provide emphasis, you are using a "throat-clearer." It's as if you are saying, "I have something to say now. Listen up."

The universal advice of writing experts is to drop these phrases and write the sentence in a way that emphasizes the idea without the useless throat-clearer. For example--

Weak: It should be noted that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

By dropping the throat-clearer ("it should be noted that"), you may be sacrificing a slight emphasis. You can usually think of a better way to achieve that emphasis.

Better: In fact, the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

Weak: It is important to remember that the client must make the final decision.

Here again, we might lose a small sense of emphasis when we remove the throat-clearing phrase "it is important to note that." But try this:

Better: The client--not the lawyer--must make the final decision.

--Excerpted from Better Legal Writing

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