Law Students’ Top 5 Writing Mistakes and How to Handle Them

  • On March 12, 2014 ·
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  • Terms and names inconsistency

Some papers contain more than 5 various spellings of the same term/name. It happens just because the author didn’t pay much attention to it. It confuses the reader and creates a reason for misinterpretations.

To make sure the spelling is the same at all times, keep a list of new concepts and names you are using in your assignment, and once finished, check those items using “Search and Find” tool.

  • Wordiness

Students are often intimidated by word count limitations. They find it difficult to turn a 3000-word paper into a 1600-word one.

In fact, if you are in command of prepositional phrases, you can always find a shorter/longer alternative to what you are trying to say. Check out THIS link. You’ll be impressed how a sentence’s length can be manipulated!

  • Misuse of apostrophe

In some papers apostrophe is used instead of a plural form: “I have lots of paper’s to submit”; whereas when possession is implied, some forget to put it: “The cases discussion was stopped abruptly”.

I suggest proofreading your paper for this specific mistake after you finish writing, using “Find and Replace” tool.

  • Misuse of commas

Commas are a big issue in legal writing, especially because it is famous of its long and wordy sentences.
As I want to keep this post short, I won’t go into punctuation rules. I will just say that punctuation matters. To get some brilliant examples of the influence of punctuation on the meaning, have a look at THIS thread.

There are clear rules how commas should and should not be used. I think it is worth spending an hour learning this rules than risking being misinterpreted or looking unprofessional.

  • Great content, but poor formatting 

Examples of poor formatting are: using double spaces, manual paragraph spacing, lack of alignment, messed up numbering, etc.
Most of formatting mistakes can be fixed using simple Microsoft Word tools. I warmly recommend “Find and Replace” for double spaces and double paragraph breaks (search for ^p^p  and replace it with ^p). Alignment and numbering might be more complicated, but there are user guides available.

 

To avoid making such mistakes, I suggest creating a personally-adjusted editing list:

  • Spot the most typical mistakes you do and write them down in a list. You might want to keep this list for your future assignments. Mistakes usually show up more than once.
  • Write the paper and let it “cool” for a few hours.
  • Review the paper using your editing checklist. You must take into account that editing might take you a while (ranges from 2 minutes to 20 minutes per page). If you can’t think of your own checklist, download a sample. Samples are available from different sources, HERE is one I like.

 

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