Cut Clutter with 'Checklist-Find': Using Technology to Teach Effective, Efficient Revision
10 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2015
Date Written: June 1, 2015
Writing legal documents with plain English is difficult, and the “checklist-find” revision strategy enables legal writers to identify and revise common plain English and grammar weaknesses in their legal documents by using their word processors’ “find” functions — Control F on PCs and Command F on Macs — to locate clutter words on a predesigned, personalized checklist. Even seasoned legal writers face many challenges when trying to write plainly. First, legal writers are often busy people working under tight deadlines. Second, they often must make difficult ideas understandable to as broad an audience as possible in as plain a fashion as possible. Third, they face the formidable task of cutting the overgrowth of legalese that strangles even the simplest concepts in legal writing.
The checklist-find technique is simple — you do not have to be a grammarian or a techno-wizard to use this technique or to teach others to use it — and it uses tools that students already have at their disposal. Early in their legal writing careers, law students are not likely able to self-identify weaknesses in their writing. They are, however, likely to have used Control F to find specific terms in a document. Accordingly, checklist-find helps our students, who are technologically savvy or “digital natives,” to employ technology to their advantage to both maximize their learning and to process lots of new information, thereby lightening their “cognitive loads.”
Keywords: legal writing, legal education, writing, editing, literacy, checklist, plain English, grammar, legal grammar
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