Please, avoid over-explanation of names!

Today we discuss a particular form of tedious detail that should be avoided:  the over-explanation of names.  In his judicial style sheet, Judge Thomas Gibbs Gee admonishes, “No overparticularization, which can throw your reader off by causing him to try to keep track of things that do not matter.”  A Few of Wisdom’s Idiosyncrasies and a Few of Ignorance’s, 1 Scribe’s Legal Writing 55, 57 (1990).  Over-explanation of names has two problems:  it injects unnecessary facts, and it defines the obvious.

So if a shorthand name isn’t necessary to understanding the issues and if there is no danger that the reader will be confused without it, then don’t put it in a parenthetical, e.g.:

Correct:

In this lawsuit, plaintiff Philip Marlowe asserts an unfair competition claim against his former partner, defendant Sam Spade.  Spade’s summary judgment motion should be granted for three reasons.  First, because Spade did not . . .

Incorrect:

In this lawsuit, plaintiff Philip Marlowe (“Marlowe”) asserts an unfair competition claim against his former partner, defendant Sam Spade (“Spade”).  Spade’s summary judgment motion should be granted for three reasons.  First, because Spade did not . . .

That is all for now …

1 Comment

Filed under Style

One response to “Please, avoid over-explanation of names!

  1. Mike R

    Even I don’t do that

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