Use of Commas in Legal Documents

Note: If you can add the word « and » between adjectives, add commas. Transactional documents – legal drafting – are part of a similar continuum. A 150-page merger agreement between two large companies, in which both parties are represented by lawyers, will be very formal – and will also have to be precise, precise and hermetic (characteristics that are not always compatible with a high formality). A commercial lease for a small business that uses small office space will likely be much shorter and require less complexity, but can still be somewhat formal. But a proxy circular that allows members of a neighborhood association to set their voting preferences for the next board meeting should be as clear as possible. If informality contributes to this objective, it is justified. For example, following the example of Maine, while English requires a comma before a coordinating conjunction, Spanish forbids it. In addition to an in-depth knowledge of the legal systems of the two countries, which can also differ in many ways, the legal translator must be very familiar with the grammar of both languages. In this way, he or she ensures that the outcome of the trial is the same, regardless of where the accused is geographically. If you need to identify a specific person, place, or thing and distinguish it from other people, places, or objects, use a restrictive modifier. Use it without commas to display a restrictive modifier. Punctuation is perhaps one of the most abused elements of writing in general – from professional and academic writing to creative and legal writing. Diction, word placement and sentence structure seem to dominate the writing world, while the value of precise punctuation seems to fall through the cracks.

Strictly follow your company`s style policy for the Oxford comma. Usually, the Oxford comma is the surest way to avoid ambiguity, although there are no guarantees. However, inconsistent use within a single document or across multiple documents leads to litigation, so avoid it. Legal texts create binding legal texts. It includes enacted laws such as laws, rules and regulations; contracts (private and public); personal legal documents such as wills and trusts; and public legal documents such as notices and instructions. Legal writing does not require a legal citation and is usually written without a stylized voice. Read the Infoware blog for more information and tips to improve your legal document writing skills, and learn how our legal document automation software can increase the accuracy and productivity of your law firm. In legal documents, the semicolon is also often used as a « super comma » – in this case, the semicolon divides a list of items that already contain a comma, such as name, job title; Name, job title. Legal writing involves analyzing patterns of fact and presenting arguments in documents such as legal notes and briefs. [1] A form of legal writing is the provision of a balanced analysis of a legal problem or issue. Another form of legal writing is persuasive and advocates a legal position.

Another form of legal drafting is to draft legal instruments such as contracts and wills. [2] Punctuation is a component of writing that people rarely think about or notice, except when it is false. At worst, misused punctuation marks — commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and the like — can confuse the meaning of your sentences and leave your reader confused and frustrated. Even less glaring mistakes, such as a missing or misplaced apostrophe, can make your written work look like carelessness and lack of attention. While the above statements can only confuse someone reading the outcome of a case, there are best practices for legal grammar rules to avoid uncertainties during a case that could result from incorrect punctuation and sentence structure. However, a better rule for legal writers is to put commas in all of these sentences: Small but mundane in prose (especially in legal documents), the comma is crucial for good writing. We learn early in our literacy that the comma is like a brief respite in the language, but in writing it plays a much more complicated role. A comma doesn`t just divide longer sentences (and it doesn`t offer an opt-out clause for the use of many long sentences, by the way!). Commas are placed in sentences to separate sentences: A part of a sentence that forms a clause is identified by the inclusion of a subject and a verb. In the legal letter, it also refers to a separate article, provision or reservation. In any case, incorrect placement of the comma can lead to ambiguity in meaning and even change the meaning of a sentence as a whole.

Related: Law firms work best when there are standards that everyone is expected to meet. A legal document created by an author must be identical to a document created by a lawyer in the same office. Read our blog on « The Value of Standardization in Today`s Law Firms. » Quotation marks are another point of contention in writing, especially when it comes to the rules for placing them next to other punctuation marks. As a general rule, and to ensure absolute clarity in legal documents, a direct quotation should be provided entirely with its original punctuation and placed in quotation marks. Everything outside the quotation marks belongs to the sentence in which the quote is written. For more explanations of commas and clauses, this blog from Purdue Online Writing Lab offers many examples. It is true that you do not need to start introductory sentences with commas in very simple sentences: the vague rules we used in college are not enough for the legal work we do now. Inconsistent or incorrect use of commas in these three areas can lead to confusion and ambiguity and cost your customers dearly. Until you memorize these rules and can apply them consistently, look for them every time you write.

Inconsistent use of commas with modifiers or in series can result in unintentional and unfavorable interpretations. For best results in your legal writing, learn these three comma rules. If you`d like to check out the basic rules for using commas, check out our writing tip and sign up to receive advice in your inbox each week from legal writing expert and WordRake founder, Gary Kinder. A famous example of another expensive comma placement commonly cited in legal circles is the million-dollar comma. A Canadian cable television provider and a telephone company disagreed over the terms of termination of the contract. Citing punctuation rules, Canada`s telecommunications regulator ruled that Bell Aliant, the telephone company, could terminate its five-year agreement with Rogers, the television provider, at any time with notice because a certain comma was present. Recently, a variety of tools have been developed to allow authors to automate essential parts of legal drafting. For example, transactional lawyers can use automated tools to review certain formalities when drafting, and there are tools that help litigants check citations and citations against legal authority for motions and briefs. [5] The simple line rule is: use commas to separate items in a line of three or more items. If the items in the series contain commas, use semicolons to separate the items.

But what about the « Oxford » comma? However, here are some basic rules for placing punctuation with quotation marks. A quote that appears after a complete sentence should itself be treated as a complete sentence that begins with a capital letter and ends with a period. This is true whether the quote is long or short. If a quote is given in the middle of a sentence, it must be surrounded by commas. Note the punctuation of citations in the following example: Drafting legal documents such as contracts differs because, unlike most other categories of legal writing, it is common to use language and clauses derived from form books, legal opinions, and other documents without attribution. Lawyers use standard documents when drafting documents such as contracts, wills, and judgments. The main difference between using sentences or paragraphs from other legal documents and copying them in other contexts or copying the entire document is that lawyers do use a common set of clauses that they adapt and modify for their own purposes. [9] It may seem tedious and time-consuming to master the placement and correct use of punctuation in the standard legal document. However, it`s important to note that you can seriously compromise the quality of your documentation if you don`t. Correct punctuation helps structure your document and improve the quality of actual content. Perhaps a trade-off to save time without sacrificing quality is to use a legal document format or custom template to help you navigate common legal forms, memos, and other forms of documentation.

Whichever specific approach you choose, make sure proper punctuation is a top priority. If we look at the first sentence, the most important message we take away is that the defendant has been convicted. In this case, we see the relative non-limiting clause « which looked apologetic » between the commas.