Summer Briefwriting Institute – Week Three

Welcome to Week Three of the Summer Briefwriting Institute (here are Week One and Week Two).

After attending to the big picture in Week One, we worked last week on Step Two, which is section-level edits. Blog posts addressing each step follow:

Brief editing step one: make sure that the big picture is clear.

Brief editing step two: ensure that each section advances the argument.

Brief editing step three: attend to the structure of each section.

Brief editing step four: line editing.

Since this brief was rather well designed after the big-picture-focusing edits from Step One and the section-honing edits from Step Two, we went on to make the few additional edits required by Step Three, which focuses on paragraph-level edits. Our working brief, with Step Two and Step Three edits in bold, is here. Next week we’ll do Step Four edits, and fix the formatting to boot. Print the brief and try out your hand at line edits, and check in next week for the final installment of the Summer Writing Institute.

Here are some notes on last week’s Step Two and Step Three edits:

- Two of the sections did little or nothing to advance the argument. They were Section III (arguing that the objections were late and thus waived) and Section IV (asking for sanctions). We shrank the contents of Section III and appended them to the end of II, and deleted IV altogether.

- The statement of facts in a brief is crucial, and is too often overlooked. We bolstered ours by expanding on the theme of the plaintiff’s injury, improving the internal logic, and organizing the section to match the organization of the argument.

- The two (remaining) argument sections had minimally-descriptive headers, which we fixed, and paragraphs that made little or no contribution to the section, which we deleted. We wrote sentences to transition between arguments within the section and to make clear the purpose of each paragraph.

- The caselaw cited was poorly distributed in the brief and its relevance was not stated. It was also usually given in the form of a badly-organized string-cite. We deleted many of the citations, placed the rest for best effect, and added parentheticals.

- Paragraph transitions were added or adjusted in a few places to improve reading flow.

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