Building a strong argument is vital for good legal writing. But sometimes, lawyers mishandle words that signal precision.
For example, you may feel the urge to strengthen your points with statements like, “most people believe…”
While this might give the illusion of a more compelling case, it has drawbacks.
Unsubstantiated Claims: the Bane of Legal Writing
Not only are such claims typically unverifiable, but they also risk being incorrect, thereby weakening your legal writing rather than fortifying it.
Statements like these are often used in an attempt to give weight to an argument, implying that the views represented are commonly held and, therefore, more valid. However, such claims are prone to challenge.
If your audience or opponent is already skeptical of your claims, saying “most people believe” sets you up for an easy refutation.
How to Strengthen Your Legal Arguments
So, how can you maintain the impact of your legal writing without running the risk of easy contradiction? Consider using the term “a significant percentage of people believe.”
This phrase offers a more subtler approach and avoids making a sweeping claim that could be easily disproven.
In some contexts, a “significant percentage” could be as low as 2%, but the term still provides enough gravitas to make your argument sound robust.
Choosing words like “significant” may add a few extra syllables, but they contribute to the overall credibility of your assertion. In legal writing, where the quality of your argument can heavily influence outcomes, this measured approach to emphasizing a point can make a world of difference.
Realize: Good Legal Writing is Nuanced
In summary, striving for accuracy in your legal writing is important, but not at the expense of your argument’s integrity (or readability).
By opting for more careful and precise language, you mitigate the risk of your points being easily challenged or dismissed.
It’s important to remember that while powerful language can enhance an argument, unsubstantiated claims can just as easily undermine it.
So next time you’re tempted to say, “most people believe,” pause and reconsider if that truly serves your argument well. Instead, opt for a phrase that is less vulnerable to scrutiny but still impactful, like “a significant percentage of people believe.”
If you want to learn more about effective legal writing, I highly recommend Ross Guberman’s writing programs.