As a lawyer, you have spent years developing your writing style. In doing so, you have probably emulated some of your law school professors and career mentors. If you have ever sought advice on writing publishable fiction or creative nonfiction, though, you have probably heard that you should write like Ernest Hemingway. Despite that Ernest’s younger brother Leicester was easily the most underrated member of the Hemingway family, the writing world seems to hold up Ernest with the six-toed feline friends as the model that aspiring writers should seek to follow. Brian Clark of Copyblogger is only the most recent voice to join the chorus enjoining us to “eschew obfuscation” and get to the point like Papa. Just how much does that advice apply to law firm blogs, though?
When Ernest Hemingway wrote his famously short sentences, he did not have Google in mind. In the age of search engines, it is a good idea to keep your sentences short for SEO purposes. Some SEO advice guides recommend keeping sentences below 20 words, but some ideas find their most straightforward expression in longer sentences (pace Papa).
Short First Paragraphs
Google likes short paragraphs as much as it likes short sentences. Word count is not the only factor in SEO, however. It is important to include your main keyword in your first paragraph, even if it means that the paragraph ends up being longer than a tweet.
Use Vigorous English
This is a writing advice cliché, and “vigorous” is a subjective term. To see if your content makes sense, have some non-lawyers review it.
Say What It Is, Not What It Isn’t
Following this rule makes for readable content, but sometimes in law, it matters what something isn’t instead of what it is. To give just a few examples, tribal lands are not subject to state laws, a mediation agreement in a divorce is not legally binding until a judge signs it, not using a turn signal when changing lanes is a violation of traffic laws, and not reporting child abuse when you know about it is a crime.
Only Use One Percent of What You Write
This rule might apply to self-proclaimed genius novelists, but bloggers deal in volume. To get publishable content after only a few drafts, you should outline, or else outsource the blog writing to trusted professional writers.
The Bottom Line
No one wants to hire Ernest Hemingway to modify their child custody agreement, seek damages for their injuries, or fight their drug possession charges. Short sentences are nice, but you are writing to inform readers about the law. Take Hemingway-adoring writing advice with a grain of salt.
Legal Blog Writers
You are a great writer, but you have better things to do than write a legal blog. You can count on Law Blog Writers to produce engaging blog content that prospective clients of your law firm will understand and find credible.