Garner’s On Words series in the ABA Journal is filled with great advice for law practice. Each month, he offers wonderful tips for better legal writing.
One of Garner’s posts discusses coherently reporting research in emails. As noted, “[i]n the rushed exigency of modern law practice, with the expectation of nearly immediate responses to all manner of queries, emails are overtaking formal memos as the standard method for communicating research to senior colleagues and to clients.”
As Garner mentions, email is often seen as an informal means of communication, which means that many emails are rushed and may lead to more questions than answers.
He advises that “[b]efore hitting ‘send,’ step back and ask yourself exactly how clear you’re being. Avoid answering in a way that is sure to beget further queries. You might be well-advised to make your summary at least as clear as it should be in a formal memo.”
To paraphrase Garner, instead of replying to a research question directly in an email, you may want to provide a more structured answer with a question presented and a brief answer. After all, research queries are often put aside until needed, so it may be a while before the email is read for comprehension. This could lead to the frustration of having to sift through a long email exchange to fully understand the final answer.
See Garner’s full post for great examples of drafting effective email memos.