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When You Just HAVE to Use Acronyms

Close-up Of Male Judge In Front Of Mallet Holding Documents
By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

In legal writing, acronyms can certainly be frustrating. After all, pleadings are dry enough as is, and when you sprinkle in an acronym or two every other paragraph, or every other sentence, any hope of developing a flow can go right out the window (alongside a judge’s tolerance for poorly written pleadings).

Yes, you absolutely can use acronyms, but when you do, use your eye for readability. It is critical to avoid frustrating your judge and clerk readers who won’t want to keep flipping or scrolling through pages to remember what you meant by NBA, LOL, and CFR. It's clear that judges know acronyms can be confusing. Below you can find a few tips on how to use acronyms in your pleadings.

1. Review Your Rules of Court

Believe it, some courts actually have specific rules about acronyms. Review your court's rules before making up your own, or using the less commonly known/used ones. For instance, the D.C. Circuit not only prohibits the usage of uncommon acronyms, it also requires a glossary, and isn't afraid to benchslap a lawyer who doesn't follow these nitpicky rules.

2. Standard Abbreviations Every Lawyer Knows are Fine, Just Not Too Many

So, acronyms like FRE, FRCP, CFR, USPS, IRS, FBI, EEOC, USDC, and other acronyms every lawyer should know are generally fine to use anytime, particularly if the context makes it clear. This doesn't apply to text-speech at all. LOL may be part of the standard lexicon of today, but it is not an appropriate acronym to use in pleadings (unless you're quoting something, like, a teenager's text message). And when it comes to readability, you may want to try to minimize the number of standard abbreviations you string together in one sentence or paragraph.

3. Common Sense Abbreviations Bear Repeating

If you are going to create your own acronym to shorten the name of something, or use a less common acronym, be sure to repeat the non-acronym version often enough that a reader doesn't have to turn a page to be reminded about what the letters stand for. For the common acronyms, you don't need to spell those out more than first time. Shaving a few words off your word count isn't worth forcing readers to flip around to remember what your less common acronyms mean.

WWAS (We'll Write Again Soon).

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