A BigLaw Paragraph Meets BriefCatch: A Case Study

“Throat-clearing”starting sentences with phrases like “it is inconceivable that”is a big problem in briefs filed by even the best firms. Take this paragraph from a recent emergency petition for stay of a Pennsylvania redistricting order:

BriefCatch can help you find many issues in just this paragraph alone.

The first thing to notice is the series of three throat-clearing sentences in a row: “It is untenable that . . . It is inconceivable that . . . It is therefore not surprising that . . .” These are highlighted in yellow. We should recast the passage around actual subjects so that the reader doesn’t have to process a series of shifting dummy-pronoun “it” references. (They are called dummy pronouns because they don’t actually refer to anything.)

Other issues:

    In the first sentence, there is only one criterion, not several “criteria,” and the verb should be singular as well: “amounts,” not “amount.”
    In the third and fourth lines, “been in existence” is wordy for “existed.”
    The second sentence, which runs 50 words, has an unhelpful passive construction (in blue) that obscures the sentence’s point. We can also put like parts of the sentence together.
    What does “has been in complete lockstep with” (in green) mean?
    We can tighten “matters of congressional appointment” to “congressional-appointment matters.”
    “In every instance” and “each and every time” (which is itself a classic wordy phrase) are redundant.

Let’s make those changes:

And here’s a new paragraph just seconds later: shorter, tighter, and, let’s hope, clearer:

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