A persuasive argument is a key tool for a lawyer in court. It can be easy
to forget the role that word choice plays in forming a strong argument,
though. Often, lawyers rely on adjectives and adverbs to describe the
events they’re writing about. Describing acts with modifiers, like
adjectives or adverbs, means your word choices
need modification. If your words need to be modified, you may be making the
wrong choice in your words. Changing this may be easier than you think!
Take, for example, the following sentence:
The man struck the girl.
This sentence is simple. It contains no adjectives or adverbs, but it paints
a powerful picture. The reader sees a man, who is larger and more powerful
than the girl, inflicting violence. The girl is presented as a victim
of this violence. It is easy for the audience to sympathize with the girl.
This was accomplished without describing anything beyond the action taken.
Now, look at the second example.
The officer subdued the protester.
In this example, people would be more likely to side with the officer,
who has an official status and moral authority in many minds. The protester,
is seen as a troublemaker. The officer’s decision to subdue the
protester is presented as a neutral, appropriate response to the protester’s
actions, whatever they might have been. With a single sentence, the attorney
can sway the sympathy of an entire court, provided they choose their words well.
What is most important to remember is the above examples are describing
the same scenario. A male officer using force to subdue a female protester
can be told either way, spinning the story in favor of either party. A
simple change in word choice can be enough to change a judicial reader’s mind.
Shifting your storytelling away from ornate language may seem difficult,
but it is a worthwhile habit to cultivate. Your words should
show your audience the story, not
tell them. A well-written brief is a powerful tool in a lawyer’s arsenal,
and is as easy to achieve as changing a few simple words.
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