Monday, February 18, 2013

Writing Tip of the Week: Persuasive Style Part II


Give favorable information the most “airtime.”  Emphasize favorable information by describing it in detail; de-emphasize unfavorable information by describing it more briefly. 

·     Ms. Smith consumed alcohol at the party.

·     Ms. Smith immediately began guzzling beer from a keg.  She then downed numerous shots of Jack Daniels during a drinking game. 

Emphasize favorable information by placing it at the beginning or end of a paragraph or sentence or in a short sentence.  “Bury” unfavorable information by placing it in the middle of a paragraph or sentence.  

  • Ms. Smith described the man as six feet tall and 180 pounds, with gray sweatpants, dark hair, and a beard. (to bury gray sweatpants)
  • Ms. Smith described the man as six feet tall and 180 pounds, with dark hair and a beard.  She noted that he was wearing gray sweatpants. (to emphasize gray sweatpants) 
Juxtapose favorable and unfavorable information.  Juxtapose unfavorable information in a subordinate clause with favorable information in a main clause. 

  • Although the boy waved a gun in the air, no one was injured.  (to emphasize that no one was injured)
  • Although no one was injured, the boy waved a loaded gun in the air. (to emphasize that he was waving the gun) 
Use active and passive voice strategically.   Use the active voice when you want to connect a party with certain actions and the passive voice when you want to distance a party from those actions.

·   The Defendant abruptly transferred Mr. Smith to a branch office two weeks after Mr. Smith’s wife filed a discrimination claim. (active)

  • The Plaintiff was transferred because of staffing issues. (passive) 

Robin Wellford Slocum, Legal Reasoning, Writing, and Persuasive Argument 314-15 (2d ed. 2006); Laurel Currie Oates & Anne Enquist, The Legal Writing Handbook 271-75, 354-61, 513-18, 529-31 (5th ed. 2010).