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What Lawyers Can Learn From Twitter Account that Converts Federal Rules Into Haiku

Twitter is an amazing place. Since I created a Twitter account in 2008, I’ve followed a wide variety of tweeters, for both business and pleasure. For business, I follow such accounts as legal research providers Westlaw, Casetext and Fastcase; legal practice management tools ClioMyCase and RocketMatter; and the hashtag #AppellateTwitter. For fun, I follow accounts like We Rate Dogs and Food52. Some accounts straddle the line between business and pleasure, such as the long-running Supreme Court Haiku and the new Rule Haiku.

The @RuleHaiku account started off converting the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to haiku; as of this writing, it’s moved on to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. Each tweet identifies the rule being haiku-ed and includes the rule haiku. As a bonus, each tweet also includes a picture of the text of the full rule, so readers can judge for themselves how faithfully the haiku renders the gist of the rule. Here are a few recent haikus:

FRAP 18Stay pending appeal
Move before agency first
Unless that’s pointless

[FRCP] 83Local rules fill gaps
But must be consistent with
These rules and statute

The @RuleHaiku account inspired this tweet from a fan:

The Federal Rules.
Civil Procedure. Haiku.
Omit needless words.

Therein lies @RuleHaiku’s lesson for lawyers: omit needless words. Here are three tips to help you write more concise briefs:

  • Avoid the passive voice: In an active sentence, the subject performs the action (“Good lawyers avoid the passive voice”). In a sentence written in passive voice, the target of the action is promoted to the subject position (“The passive voice is avoided by good lawyers”).
  • Limit the length of block quotations: When using a block quotation, omit any irrelevant portion of the quotation and replace it with an ellipsis (…). Be careful: omitting any relevant portion of the quotation will make the quotation misleading.
  • Choose your words carefully: If you use expressive verbs and concrete nouns, you won’t need to buttress bland verbs and vague nouns with wordy modifiers. (Instead of “he ran very quickly,” say “he dashed” [or sprinted, bolted or barrelled]).

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