Writing topical legal articles and content for your website
By following our guide to legal writing you can ensure that your work hits your target market, conveys your message effectively and maximises your exposure.
Writing for the internet, media or client newsletters requires a different skillset to drafting contracts. Use of over-complicated or legalistic language can put readers off or confuse them. Today, most writers adopt the plain English style which avoids the use of complicated words and phrases in favour of simpler ones.
As a guide to best practice in writing legal content, we have compiled ten top tips from our team of expert legal authors:
1. Identify the reader
Your target demographic should determine the style and content of the article.
By making it relevant to their needs, you will capture their attention for longer. Whilst a CEO and a carpenter may both have a need for information about contract law, the detail required would differ.
2. Have a clear layout
Readers skim articles, so draw the eye with headings and sub-headings. Use bullet points, but sparingly, and consider including quotes and a call out box.
3. Talk to the reader
There is nothing worse than stuffy or formal writing. Imagine you are trying to explain the issue to a friend (not another lawyer). Use simple terms, and practical examples, and finally test it by reading it aloud.
4. Keep sentence length short
Long sentences with lots of punctuation can be hard to follow. As a guide, sentences should be less than twenty words. Use the review facility to check average sentence length and edit where required.
5. Speak directly to the reader
To be relevant, readers should be told how current law affects them and what they need to do. Address the reader in the first person as ‘you’ or ‘your company’.
6. Choose your words carefully
Where a simple word will do, there is no need for a complex one. For example, use ‘so’ instead of ‘consequently’, ‘a year’ instead of ‘per annum’. When reviewing your writing, if a word or phrase does not add anything to the meaning, remove it.
7. Avoid legalistic jargon
It is easy to forget that the language of law is not familiar to all. Double check to ensure jargon or acronyms have not crept in.
8. Proof thoroughly
Spelling mistakes and punctuation errors will damage your credibility and that of your firm. It is always a good idea to have somebody else proofread your work before it is published.
9. Make it search engine friendly
When writing legal content for websites, remember to include key words and phrases that will appeal to the search engines. Identify the phrases that clients are looking for and match your key links to those. A good tip is to add the key links retrospectively when you review your article. This way you will identify natural links instead of trying to force them into your article.
10. Conclusion comes first
Do not start with the history of the law. Busy entrepreneurs or managers want to be able to assess the implications from the outset. Your opening paragraph should provide an executive summary which grabs the reader’s attention and compels them to read on.
Alternatively, you might wish to outsource your requirements for legal articles and content to a specialist provider such as Berners Marketing.