The Bar News

Legal-writing tip: National Weather Service and plain English

If it is good enough for the National Weather Service (NWS), it ought to be good enough for lawyers. A piece in today’s State Journal-Register by Tim Landis reported that the Weather Service is changing its winter-warnings this year as experiment in some local offices. The Weather Service is going to punchier leads and use of bullet points so that readers can grasp the information more easily. Hear, hear. Compare an older warning with the new experimental version as provided in the Landis article. (Bullets are not used in the opening paragraph.) Old: “Low pressure from south Texas into central Tennessee will deepen as it tracks northeast across the upper Ohio River Valley overnight. This will continue to bring snow, and periods of sleet and freezing rains across southeast Illinois…and snow over parts of central and east-central Illinois tonight. The heaviest snow will occur south of I-70…where storm total amounts of 4 to 10 inches will be common by late tonight. Snow accumulations will steadily decrease further northward…with 3 to locally 6 inches expected as far north as a Taylorville to Decatur to Danville line.” (92 words) New: “Snow…with periods of sleet and freezing rain…can be expected in southeast Illinois through tonight. The heaviest snow is expected to be south of I-70. Snow accumulations will steadily decrease farther to the north. The snow is being caused by an area of low pressure, which is forecast to strengthen as it tracks across the Ohio River Valley tonight.” (58 words)
Posted on November 30, 2009 by James R. Covington
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