Details Can Make or Break Your Brief

Earlier this week I wrote a post on how to look smart by following instructions. Sadly, it was quickly brought to my attention the post was riddled with capitalization errors. That is a prime example of why everything you write needs to be checked and double-checked before submission.

Driving the point home was a recent opinion by a judge that noted counsel’s numerous spelling, citation, and grammatical mistakes in a brief that criticized a magistrate’s opinion.

Details matter

The greatest argument in the world cab be undercut by “minor” errors like misspelled words, poor grammar, and a lack of attention to detail (note: hopefully there are no such errors in this post).

Do your headings have the same indentations? Are your footnotes or page numbers in a different font? Did you use proper citation form?

When you are rushing to get something out the door, the little things get left by the wayside. Those missing details, however, might be the first thing your reader notices and ultimately undercut your credibility.

Print out your brief to proofread

Even though I work in a paperless office, I print out every brief and read the hard copy before submitting it. I always catch errors that I would not catch by reading it on my computer screen.

Not only will this help you catch spelling, grammar, and citation errors, it will force you to look at your arguments in a different way. This should lead to revision, reorganization, and a more streamlined and coherent argument.

Let another set of eyes read it

If you work in an office with more than one employee, ask someone else to look over your brief before submitting it. Hopefully, they are a lawyer and will notice citation issues.

Even if they are not an attorney, let someone else read it. They will still notice other errors that you might have missed. Do not let easy-to-fix errors detract from an otherwise strong argument.

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