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Writing Advice for Law Students

Writing Advice for Law Students

The writing advice for law exams and law assignments is the same, but its application varies in these two situations. Many of the following pieces of advice may be forgiven under exam conditions but are non-negotiable in assessed coursework. Anyway, you should get used to the writing style expected of a law student in all your coursework, so that you will not deviate too much from the writing style you are expected to conform to in law exams.

Use of the English language. Ensure that your spelling, punctuation and grammar are at a level appropriate for degree students. Simple mistakes such as confusing ‘there’ and ‘their’; and ‘to’ and ‘too’ are more commonplace than you may think. You will lose marks with these spelling errors in critical situations. Further, incorrectly spelling ‘judgment’ as ‘judgement’ is a bug-bear amongst most academics. In addition, correct use of capital letters for such things as ‘Act’ in relation to an Act of Parliament is essential when writing your work. These matters are not easily forgiven by your examiners in all situations.

Contractions. Avoid the use of contractions in your work. For example, it is inappropriate to use ‘don’t’ instead of ‘do not’; ‘won’t’ instead of ‘will not’; ‘isn’t’ instead of ‘is not’, etc. This is one that may be forgiven under timed conditions.

Personal writing. Law papers are academic writing, so they are meant to be formal. Although in problem questions you are told to advise a client, this does not mean that you are expected to write your answer as though you are writing to the client, for example ‘Dear Tom, My advice to you is …’. Rather, you are advising the party in an impersonal sense, addressing such matters as ‘In advising Tom…’; ‘Tom is advised that…’. 

Hedging. When you are asked to advise a client, you should make sure that your wording does not sound too absolute though you are absolutely sure that it will be the case. For example, it is better to say ‘The contract is likely to be void ab initio’; ‘John would likely be guilty of…’ instead of ‘the contract must be void ab initio’; ‘John is guilty of…’.

Abbreviations. It is common and acceptable to use abbreviations or shortforms in law assignments and exams. However, inappropriate use of abbreviations can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. To avoid these problems, you must spell out the full forms and indicate the use of abbreviations in brackets first. For example, no one would know you are referring to the European Parliament if you simply write ‘EP’ at the beginning.  

Mastering legal writing takes a lot of time and practice. If you adhere to these guidelines and continuously refine your writing skills, you will eventually develop into a proficient legal writer capable of communicating complex ideas with clarity and precision.

You are advised to study our highly-acclaimed Law Exam Skills to prepare for law exams.

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