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The editing process is a word puzzle, the pieces of which are denotations and connotations, tones, rhythms and word order. Good editors shuffle and shape these puzzle pieces until they mesh seamlessly to make a point. They refine the work until it says exactly what the writer means, clearly and compactly, and until they are sure that what is said is correct. A good editor can make writing sing.

Some say the “secret” of good legal writing is good editing. I disagree. Though editing is important — it can make the unclear clear and the dull vigorous — it cannot save a badly conceived piece. It is not a panacea for a poor approach. To the contrary, the possibility of salvaging weak writing through “editing” traps some lawyers into thinking that their haphazardly recorded thoughts constitute workable drafts.

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