Using active verbs makes your writing more vibrant, concise, and readable. In the examples above, the passive voice sentence contains two additional words, war and par. The passive voice is more verbose than the active voice. Lawyers should prefer the active voice to the passive voice in legal documents (such as contracts, terms, opinions, laws, affidavits, and factums). Most writers follow this principle when writing. But lawyers often don`t, arguing that legal documents are different and different principles apply. In all your writing, you want your writing to be clear, concise, and easy to understand. Yes, there are a few cases where you need to use passive, but about 95% of sentences should be active. As a first-year law student (1L), your schedule includes several required courses. One of the most important courses you will take is legal writing. In legal writing, students learn to conduct legal research and write both objectively (i.e., legal briefs) and as a lawyer (e.g., a procedural brief or appeal brief). (We will discuss the letter objectively and as lawyers another time.) 1. The term “active voice” is easier to understand.
It is very clear, concise and easy for the reader to understand a sentence with an “active voice”. The passive is often censored and widely condemned. Why does the passive voice get so much bad press? Whoops. Why does the passive have so bad press? Students often ask if they should avoid liabilities altogether. There are certain times when you want or need to use the passive voice. Especially in legal writing, you can use the passive when you want to divert attention from the subject/actor in one sentence. For example, if you play a man named Joe Smith who allegedly robbed a bank, you`ll want to phrase your sentence in a passive voice. “The bank was robbed on Tuesday.” In this case, use the passive voice strategically to distract your customer. You can also use passive voice if the actor/subject of the sentence is unknown. “The apples were picked.” In this sentence, you don`t know who picked the apples.
The passive voice has its place, but the active voice makes legal drafting clearer, louder and shorter. Writing with the active voice is preferred for paralegal students and is a skill that must be learned and practiced before going to the workplace. I hope these examples have shown you why it is better to use the active voice and how to write with the active voice. Lawyers abuse it, and its overuse makes writing wordy and boring. Sometimes a writer has a good reason to use the passive voice. For example, the passive voice is appropriate to emphasize what was done, as opposed to who did it: the summons was served (by Wydick) on January 19. In an active voice, the subject of the sentence or phrase takes precedence over the action. In the passive voice, the subject does not perform the action of the verb. Instead, the issue is addressed, or as legal writing expert Bryan Garner puts it in a passive voice, “the author goes back to the sentence.” You can use passive voice if the actor is unknown: the data files have been mysteriously destroyed (Wydick again). Or if you`d rather not highlight what your client did, how (Mr.
Smith`s) teeth were broken (Wydick). There are various “problems” you should pay attention to with the passive voice. And we can clearly see these problems when we look at the active voice for the first time. And you can opt for the passive “when a detached sense of abstraction is appropriate,” as in the example “In the eyes of the law, all people are created equal” (Wydick). “The passive leads to a more verbose sentence. and often covers the actor. 1 In addition, the use of passive verbs often creates ambiguity. 2. Use the passive voice when intentionally trying to hide the actor`s identity. In the following example, the writer (defender) prefers not to use the active voice, so as not to draw attention to the identity of the actor. The passive voice is therefore not wrong; It has legitimate uses in legal drafting. It is overused (passive) by lawyers. Lawyers abuse it (actively).
So when editing your writing, check passive vocal constructs – maybe you`re looking for what you have and were. When you discover the liabilities, ask yourself, “Do I need the liabilities here?” If you don`t, the active voice will become louder and more concise. The first is in the liabilities and offers the provider much greater protection. But only use the passive when you have to. You shouldn`t need more than about 5% of your rates. An easier way to check whether you are writing in an active or passive voice is to ask yourself who/what the “action” is doing in the sentence. In active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action, while the “object” is affected by the action. However, situations that require passive construction are the exception.
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