Writing Formal English

Communications to, from and by a lawyer must be written in formal English or else misunderstandings will result. This applies to email messages, text messages, and anything else pertaining to the case. One must write in short sentences and use proper punctuation. For example, consider this:

“I’ve heard from the city of Beverly Hills and I’m collecting the reports they were missing”

As written, the above sentence provided the clear impression that the city of Beverly Hills was missing some reports. After all, the client who wrote it referred to “reports they were missing.” Months later, however, it became apparent that he ran two sentences together without any punctuation; he actually was referring to something having to do with code enforcement. If he had put a period after the word “reports” and capitalized the word “they,” his communication would have read like this:

“I’ve heard from the city of Beverly Hills and I’m collecting the reports. They were missing the code enforcement report so I am getting that too.”

Similarly, every email message must contain an accurate description of its content. For example: Status of medical treatment. Another example: Question about paying a medical bill. Yet another example: New report from the animal control department.

The attorney and the law firm’s staff will rely on what the client tells them, so the latter’s thoughts must be accurately phrased and punctuated. Giving an email message a proper description also helps because, for example, when the lawyer writes to the insurance company about the client’s difficult recovery, the attorney will scan through the headings of email messages (in addition to notes made during meetings, phone calls and file reviews, of course).

It takes extra effort to write clearly. Assuming that a case is important enough to retain an attorney, the effort shall be worth it.