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Does the Readability of Your Brief Affect Your Chance of Winning an Appeal? An Analysis of Readability in Appellate Briefs and Its Correlation with Success on Appeal

Journal of Appellate Practice and Procedure, Vol. 12, No. 1, Fall 2011

Stetson University College of Law Research Paper No. 2010-10

15 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2011  

Lance N. Long

Stetson University College of Law

William F. Christensen

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: October 1, 2010

Abstract

The study described in this article suggests that the length of sentences and words, which is “readability” for our purposes, probably does not make much difference in appellate brief writing. First, we found that most briefs are written at about the same level of readability; there simply is not much difference in how lawyers write appellate briefs when it comes to the length of sentences and words. Furthermore, the readability of most appellate briefs is well within the reading ability of the highly educated audience of appellate judges and justices. Second, the relatively small differences in readability are not related to the outcome of an appeal in a statistically significant manner. Our study did show, however, that the opinions of judges and justices are less readable than lawyers’ briefs and that the opinions of dissenting judges or justices are the least readable of all the appellate writing we analyzed. Ultimately, we conclude that readability, as determined by the Flesch Reading Ease scale, is a non-issue for legal writing at the appellate level. Although readability did not appear to be related to outcome, there was a statistically significant relationship between the readability of the courts’ majority and dissenting opinions. Dissenting opinions are decidedly less readable than majority opinions.

Keywords: Appellate Briefs, Readability

JEL Classification: K10, K19, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Long, Lance N. and Christensen, William F., Does the Readability of Your Brief Affect Your Chance of Winning an Appeal? An Analysis of Readability in Appellate Briefs and Its Correlation with Success on Appeal (October 1, 2010). Journal of Appellate Practice and Procedure, Vol. 12, No. 1, Fall 2011; Stetson University College of Law Research Paper No. 2010-10. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1726906

Lance N. Long (Contact Author)

Stetson University College of Law ( email )

1401 61st Street South
Gulfport, FL 33707
United States
(727) 562-7350 (Phone)

William F. Christensen

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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