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Get Your Facts Right

Recently, I finished two books. One was about Abraham Lincoln’s connection with race and slavery. The other was about rescuers during the Holocaust. Both are topics which interest me, and about which I have some preexisting knowledge.

The Lincoln book was impeccably researched and written. I didn’t totally agree with some of the author’s 21st century conclusions, but his arguments were well-reasoned and credible. I was quite impressed with the book.

The Holocaust book was another matter. While the character studies were interesting, it was chock full of errors. For example, the writer referred to ships staying in “dry dock,” rather than remaining in port. All Germans involved in rounding up Jews were referred to as “officers.” In many places, broad conclusory statements were tossed out with little or no context.

The book also seemed like it was not well written or edited. In places, it was redundant and/or awkwardly worded. At times, I found myself getting quite annoyed.

Maybe the writer of the Holocaust book got his core story right, but I am dubious.

There is an obvious lawyer lesson here. As attorneys, we are also writers. We write to persuade. When our writing is sloppy and we don’t have the facts right - even the peripheral ones - we lose credibility.

If you’re wrong about minor stuff, why should someone accept your major premise?

Do you really think a reader is going to work hard to decipher your convoluted sentences and paragraphs?

When our written product is poor, we are not credible. Our clients are not well-served.

Write precisely and carefully.


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