With our EDRM webinar coming up in a few minutes discussing practical steps to build a knockout personal brand, it seemed like this was a great time to revisit this topic that I originally presented a couple of years ago at the Virtual Lunch with Leaders Zoom call for the San Diego Paralegal Association with Sheila Grela. So here are seven DO NOTs of writing for legal professionals!*
For quite a while, I’ve followed these philosophies, but I had not ever formalized the seven DO NOTs (or the seven DOs I covered earlier today) – until that presentation (thanks Sheila!). I don’t often repeat topics but given the timeliness of the webinar and the fact that over half of you have started following eDiscovery Today since then, it seems appropriate to repeat this one. So, here are the seven DO NOTs, with comments about each:
DO NOT be afraid to reference other people’s writings – they often become your biggest advocates: One of the biggest misconceptions about writing is that you can’t write about a topic unless it’s your own original idea. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can absolutely cover topics written by others while still putting your own spin on it. If your readers haven’t seen it – it’s still news to them. Not only that, but those authors become some of your biggest advocates and – guess what? – they tend to cover your writings as well. 🙂
DO NOT forget to attribute your sources: But, there’s a difference between referencing other people’s writings and taking them outright. Most authors I know (including me) don’t mind people referencing and linking to their articles and blog posts. We can all use additional views of our work, right? There are some writers that I know that you don’t even need to ask permission – as long as you attribute where you got the information. But, you absolutely have to attribute the source (and preferably link to it as well, if a link is available). Anything less is plagiarism.
DO NOT forget to keep it short and sweet: Most people don’t have a lot of time to read and there are a lot of resources to stay current with on industry trends and best practices. So, unless you’re writing a white paper or something that calls for more in-depth coverage, you want to respect the reader’s time and keep it short. Most writings, even many articles, should take 3-5 minutes maximum to read (which is typically 500-1,000 words at most). If I have a topic for the blog that requires more than that, I split it into multiple days.
DO NOT over edit or try to be perfect: Remember earlier today when I told you to take time for a final review before publishing or presenting? You certainly want to do that, but you also have to show you can consistently meet deadlines. Even for people who don’t write a daily blog like me, there are deadlines from time to time that can be extremely short – especially if you’re busy with other tasks as well. You want to take time to edit your work and ensure good quality, but you can’t strive for perfection or you get to a point of “paralysis by analysis” and you’ll never get it done. So, you have to be able to crank it out, do the best you can, and move on. Otherwise, you’ll drive yourself crazy!
DO NOT forget who your audience is: You have to keep in mind the level of your audience that you’re targeting in your writings and write to their level of understanding. I’m writing for attorneys and legal technology professionals that I expect will have at least a certain level of understanding of legal and technical concepts (some will have more of legal than technical or vice versa) and will hopefully learn more through my blog. If you don’t have that level of understanding (or that interest in legal and technology), you probably won’t get much out of reading this blog. And, that’s OK – it’s not for everybody.
DO NOT be super sensitive to criticism: Numerous times over the years readers have pointed out mistakes that I’ve made in my blog posts – after they were published. A lot of times they’ve been typos, but sometimes, they’ve been as significant as factual errors due to omissions or lack of information on my part. When they’ve been pointed out to me, I’ve appreciated that – and fixed the mistakes, usually acknowledging them when I do (here’s one example of that from a webinar that I did where I had the wrong version of the rule shown). So, accept criticism willingly and try to understand the perspective of those giving it to you as these are learning experiences that make you a better writer.
DO NOT forget to thank the people who promote your work: When somebody covers one of my blog posts on their writings or shares that post on LinkedIn or Twitter, I always try to thank them for promoting my writings. I’m sure I miss some here or there, but I try to thank everybody I notice doing it, because I am truly grateful for their support and their promotion of my writings. And, guess what? When you show appreciation, they keep doing it!
Those are seven DO NOTs of writing for legal professionals! ICYMI, here’s my seven DOs of writing. DO check it out! 😉
So, what do you think of the seven DO NOTs? What are some best practices you’ve observed in your writing or in that of others? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
* – I’ve since learned that SEO engines frown on apostrophes, so seven DO’S became seven DOs and seven DON’Ts became seven DO NOTs. 🙂
Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.
Love this two-part series, Doug. Great advice on some important do’s and don’ts when it comes to writing for legal professionals, and secrets to how you maintain consistency and frequency in your compelling blog posts week in and week out! Thanks.