Georgia Bar Journal August 2012 : Page 67

yers as editors, readability statis-tics could help show that edits are not merely stylistic choices 24 but quantifiable improvements. And for any lawyer writing to the all-important client audience, more readable legal writing may help lawyers influence their clients to like them (even) more. The author is grateful to Emory Law student Dominick Capotosto for his research assistance on this column and also thanks Anne Rector, Timothy Terrell and Bard Brockman for their feedback on the column. Jennifer Murphy Romig is the special guest columnist for this installment of Writing Matters. She teaches Legal Writing, Research and Advocacy at Emory Law School and works with lawyers as a legal writing consultant and coach. 1. There are other readability statistics, such as the Gunning-Fog Index, but this column focuses on the statistics available through Microsoft Word. 2. Lance N. Long and William F. Christensen, Does the Readability of Your Brief Affect Your Chance of Winning an Appeal , 12 J. a pp . p rac . & p rocess 145, 153 (2011). 3. See, e.g., Julie Baker, And the Winner Is: How the Principles of Cognitive Science Resolve the Plain Language Debate , 80 u.M.K.c. l. r ev . 287, 299, 301-302 (2012). 4. See, e.g., id. at 303. 5. See, e.g., id. at 299. The converse is that readers do not like messages that make them feel confused or unintelligent. 6. Instructions for Microsoft Word and Microsoft Outlook can be found at com/en-us/word-help/test-your-document-s-readability-HP010148506.aspx#BM1 (last visited June 11, 2012). Microsoft Word for Mac’s Grade Level statistics are capped at 12.0. On PCs, Microsoft Word 2007 and later will report Grade Level statistics up to “grade” 17.0 as was originally intended. See Norman Otto Stockmeyer, Using Microsoft August 2012 7. 8. Endnotes 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. Word’s Readability Program , 88 Mich. B.J. 46, 46 (2009), available at journal/pdf/pdf4article1467.pdf. Instructions for Word Perfect can be found at http://www.orau. gov/cdcynergy/erc/content/ activeinformation/resources/INSTR_ Word%20Perfect_Readability.pdf (last visited June 11, 2012). E.g., Dave Child, Added Bytes,, (last visited June 11, 2012). See Juicy Studio, Readability Test, readability.php (last visited June 11, 2012). The first item listed in Microsoft Word’s report is the percentage of passive sentences. While this is not technically a readability statistic, overuse of passive verbs is a well-known issue that may interfere with readability. See generally Brian Scott, Readability Formulas, http:// (last visited June 11, 2012) (explaining the algorithms behind various readability statistics); Long & Christensen, supra n. 2, at 150-151. Ross Guberman, Can Computers Help You Write Better? , Legal Writing Pro, articles/C07-computer-tools.php (last visited May 21, 2012). The main URL for the New York Times home page, http://www. (last visited June 4, 2012), scored a Grade Level of 8.02 on services/readability.php. 562 U.S. __, 131 S. Ct. 1177 (2011). Green Bag Almanac & Reader , available at http://www. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. almanacs/almanacs.html (last visited June 4, 2012). See generally Richard C. Wydick, Plain English for Lawyers (5th ed. 2005). Ben Yagoda, The Most Comma Mistakes , http://www.nytimes. com (May 21, 2012), http:// opinionator.blogs.nytimes. com/2012/05/21/the-most-comma-mistakes/. Some experts find it permissible to join short independent clauses using only commas to achieve an artful effect such as in the statement “We came, we saw, we conquered.” See James Lindgren, Style Matters: A Review Essay on Legal Writing , 92 Y ale l.J. 161, 182 (1982). This column assumes most comma splices found in current professional writing are not the result of an attempt at artfulness. Scott, supra n. 11, http://www. php (June 8, 2012). See Linda H. Edwards, Legal Writing: Process, Analysis, and Organization 224 (5th ed. 2010). See, e.g., id. at 196. Whether citations belong after sentences or in footnotes is a debate not even Bryan Garner & Justice Antonin Scalia can resolve. Bryan A. Garner & Antonin J. Scalia, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges 132-135 (2008). See, e.g., Edwards, supra n. 20, at 223, 348. For a thorough critique of readability statistics, see Louis J. Sirico, Jr., Readability Studies: How Technocentrism Can Compromise Research and Legal Determinations , 26 Q uinnipiac l. r ev . 147 (2007). Steven V. Armstrong & Timothy P. Terrell, Thinking Like a Writer: A Lawyer’s Guide to Effective Writing and Editing 330 (3d ed. 2008). 67

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