Avoid acronyms. Use the parties’ names. 


Avoid acronyms. Use the parties’ names. 

Acronyms are mainly for the convenience of the writer or speaker. Don’t burden your reader or listener with many of them, especially unfamiliar ones. FBI and IRS are OK, but not CPSC and FHLBB. You may be surprised how easy it is to avoid a brief of alphabet soup and from the reader’s point of view (which is the only point of view that counts) it is worth the effort. If the Consumer Product Safety Commission plays a prominent role in your case, and no other agency has any part at all, call it lithe Commission,” or even simply lithe agency.” If the case concerns the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today Act of 2003 (117 Stat. 650), foil the drafters by refusing to call it lithe PROTECT Act”; just lithe Act” will do.

The reason for avoiding acronyms is well exemplified in a fictional passage devised by Judge Daniel Friedman:

Refer to the parties by their names rather than their sta­tus in the litigation (plaintiff respondent, etc.). There are good reasons for this. Sometimes, in reading briefs, judges will get confused about who is on the up-side and who on the down-side-s-and will have to flip back to the cover to see who “Petitioner” is. Moreover, the petitioner here may have been the defendant at trial, and the respondent on the first appeal. This can make the record on appeal confusing if status-names are used in the briefing and argument at each level. Everett Jones, however, is always and everywhere, at all stage~ of the litigation, Jones.

Some mistakenly advise that you should try to personal­ize your client and depersonalize the opposing party by call­ing the former “Jones” and the latter “Defendant.” This is much too cute; rather than depersonalizing the defendant, it will annoy the court and ruin the story.

Sometimes each side of the case has multiple parties, so it is impossible to use a single name. No problem. If they are all railroads, refer to them as lithe railroads”; or if all debtors, call them “the debtors.” If they are a mishmash, pick the name of one of them and define that to include the entire group. For example, “The petitioners (collectively, ‘Exxon’) claimed below that ….”

Here, as everywhere, clarity governs all. It sometimes makes sense to use terms like “general contractor,” “owner,” and “subcontractor” if that will identify the cast of characters in way that makes the story more comprehensible.



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