August 12, 2014The Main Message
Let’s say that you represent Gunston Specialty Holdings Corp. LLC (often abbreviated in company emails and internal documents as GSHCLLC). How should you refer to them in a brief?
Long-time readers of this blog are now shouting in unison “Gunston!” Shorter is better for a host of reasons, including that “Gunston” sounds a bit like a person—or at least something that might have some human attributes—while “Gunston Specialty Holdings Corp. LLC” does not, and GSHCLLC sounds like something you have to type in to get a website to accept that you aren’t a robot.
There’s another excellent reason for short names, from well-validated psychological research. When you write your brief about Gunston, you are introducing the judge to an unfamiliar name and then asking her to learn things about it and make decisions about it. This is a difficult mental task. Your judge stores information like “the name of the entity we’re talking about” in short-term memory. Short-term memory can’t hold much. When you stress it with a long string of words, or something that makes no lexical sense like an acronym, it decreases the judge’s ability to pay attention to the rest of your message and makes it harder to comprehend what you are saying.
When something is hard to comprehend and takes too much work to process, people tend to reject it. If your argument is confusing because of aesthetic details like your insistence on using awkward titles for the entities involved, you have made it less persuasive.
The effect of things like this is not 100%, of course; they function at the margin. A bad argument with nice short names is still unlikely to persuade; an excellent one about SXRCJSDS will probably still work. But it’s your job to improve the odds of persuasion, particularly in the close cases that are the most common kind to be presented for adjudication.