Let’s get active!

Tip of the DayEver hear the expression “less is more”? When you write public legal educational materials, that is often very true.

Here are some tips to help you make your writing more active, clear and memorable.

Change nouns into verbs

To make your writing clearer, use verbs rather than nouns. Along with the passive voice, turning verbs into nouns is a very common problem in legal writing. You can spot these words by looking for words ending with -ment, -tion, -sion, and -ance.

Instead of:
The function of the Family Responsibility Office is the enforcement of support orders and collection of support payments.

The Family Responsibility Office enforces support orders and collects support payments.

Use strong, active verbs

Use the active form of the verb rather than the passive. In the passive voice, it’s often not clear who or what is doing the action. Sentences written in the active voice are easier to understand because it’s clearer who is doing what to whom.

Instead of:
A door-to-door contract can be cancelled by the customer within 10 days.

You can cancel a door-to-door contract within 10 days.

See CLEO’s Better Legal Information Handbook for more information on clear design tips for print materials.

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