Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Roadhouse Rules for Writing

For some reason I felt like watching some 80s movies. There is nothing more 80s than Patrick Swayze. Who else would combine a haircut that is feathered with a mullet?

The next day I got to work answering one of the motions against me. It appears the opposing attorney thinks they should win because, A) I'm a dick. B) I rewrote their questions in Discovery so that I could understand them.

As far as the first charge, I answered their charges much in the same style as I do in my, “Shut-up Stupid Sunday” posts.

The second charge reminded me of Swayze's speech in Roadhouse:

“If somebody gets in your face and calls you a cocksucker, I want you to be nice. Ask him to walk. Be nice. If he won't walk, walk him. But be nice. If you can't walk him, one of the others will help you, and you'll both be nice. I want you to remember that it's a job. It's nothing personal.”

So as I answered the charges of being an editor, and worked through the barely coherent rant against me, I thought lawyers could benefit from a similar speech:

“If you are filing a complaint. Be clear. If you are asking a question. Be clear. If you need a affidavit, you'll both be clear. I want you to remember writing a clear presentation is your job. It's nothing personal.”

One of the sections he pointed out was this:

5.In the event the Defendant feels that the balance set forth in Plaintiff's accounting is incorrect, set forth,in Defendant's opinion, the balance that is determined due and owing to the Plaintiff herein.

I rewrote this as:

What does the Defendant feel the true balance is?

I first removed the meaningless phrase:

“In the event the Defendant feels that the balance set forth in Plaintiff's accounting is incorrect,”

If I thought they were correct, I would still be able to state the balance and they could easily show it agreed with theirs.

I then removed the contradictory term:

“... opinion...due and owing to the Plaintiff herein.”

As it was written it was unanswerable as he is asking for my opinion within the document.

I removed the redundancy:

“ balance that is determined”

If you have a balance you have to determine it by adding things up.

Removed the “A duh” statement:

“ set forth”

Gee, you want me to write down my answer. I thought you wanted me to ponder it philosophically.

I followed the rule of writing, “Never Use a Large Word When a Diminutive One Will Suffice”

I substituted “In the opinion” with “Feel”.

I had to do all that in order to have a question that I could answer.

Now the attorney is making the case that if he is forced to make a clear presentation of the facts he can't win. In that I couldn't agree with him more.


  1. A little research showed that lawyers aren't required to be bad writers, they just think its a requirement. Part of a lawyer's job is to do advocacy writing. The first two rules of that are Clarity and Brevity. Bad writing from a lawyer is simply the sign of a bad lawyer.