Improving Your Paralegal Writing Skills

Good paralegal writing – the kind that grabs your attention and holds it – is hard to come by. Arguably, it is even harder to create. 

With the growth of fully remote positions in the legal world and the billions of emails that we send every year, making your written word count is important. From helping you land that coveted position to improving client communications, writing should be a tool that every paralegal can use proficiently. 

As an adjunct professor, adult educator, and paralegal, I’ve learned that writing well is much more difficult than it may seem. Here are some practical tips to help your writing stand out – hopefully in less time than it took mine. 

Paralegal Writing Tips

1. Slow Down

Especially on those days the emails continually pour in, it is easy to rush and write out replies as quickly as possible. But, as I’ve learned from the tough teacher of experience, sending a hasty email at the wrong time can quickly hamper your reputation as a legal professional.

Slowing down and ensuring that you aren’t missing any information, making egregious errors, or other mistakes will inevitably make your writing stand out from the crowd. Communicating with others effectively through your words is an art that is best done slowly.

Read the Paralegal Checklist: Countdown to Hitting Send.

paralegal writing

2. Make Writing a Habit

One of the most prolific American authors of our time, Stephen King, made the point that writing every day is one of the key ways to become a better writer. In his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he notes: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” 

Although his advice might seem inapplicable to legal professionals who aren’t looking to become full-time writers, his point still stands. Like anything else in life, writing agreements, emails, memos, or other legal documentation requires practice; lots of it. Even though we generate countless emails a day, making the time for deliberate practice of your paralegal writing (writing practice memos, mock agreement clauses, etc.) can sharpen your intuition for word choice and tone.

3. Proofread Your Paralegal Writing

I’ll be honest here. I hate proofreading. 

But, I also (somewhat contradictory) know that it is one of the few activities that will elevate my writing from good to amazing in a short time. By quickly scanning your work for spelling errors, grammatical issues, and confusing phrases, you’d be surprised at how compelling your work can sound. Why? Because, at its core, syntax is the nuts and bolts of your writing. If there are glaring errors, your entire point will fall apart, no matter how strong it is. 

Programs like Grammarly fix small errors to spruce up a piece. But, they should not be used as a substitute for your eyes and mind. Part of what makes proofreading a productive task is that it puts you in the mindset to better your paralegal writing skills, such as word choice, tone, spelling, etc. Simply clicking a button does not have the same effect. 

Here are 5 Tips to Improve Proofreading.

4. Keep it Simple

As paralegals, we like to flex our drafting muscles every once in a while. However, knowing what circumstances call for such vocabulary or tone separates a keen writer from someone who knows big words. For most situations, it is best to keep things simple. And there’s a good reason for that. 

A study mentioned in a Harvard Business Review article surveyed two groups of people that were given information about how to lose weight. Each group was given similar material, but one group’s information was presented in a much more technical manner. Interestingly, the group that used the simplified information reported more confidence in succeeding in their weight loss goals. 

The takeaway? More ink doesn’t mean more impact.

5. Read Widely and Read Often

As mentioned in Stephen King’s quote above, reading widely (and habitually) is another crucial step to improving your way with words in your paralegal writing. You might object that you already read thousands upon thousands of words per day, but it’s important to read the right material properly. 

Reading news articles or online posts is good, but it’s not as beneficial as reading more involved material such as law articles, memos, classical works of fiction, or, better yet, books about writing. The reason is that to create good works; you also need to consume them. Part of becoming a great writer involves learning how to emulate masters of the craft. Here are some of my recommendations for books: 

  • The Elements of Style by Strunk & White 
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy 
  • How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler 
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien 

If you’re more inclined to online reading (articles/publications), here are some sources I recommend:

Additionally, while you may shy away from fiction because of its seeming irrelevance to law, learning to read and write about grand landscapes and powerful narratives may widen your perspective. Studies have shown that reading fiction correlates with being more empathetic toward others. So, pick up some Charles Dickens from the library on your way home, and maybe those irritating co-workers might not seem so bad after all.

paralegal writing

6. Receive Constructive Criticism for Your Paralegal Writing Well

Out of all the tips listed, this is probably the hardest to do consistently. 

When faced with a critique of your paralegal writing, whether it be an email, memo, agreement draft, or another document, it is important to view the criticism as only a review of your work, not you personally. Admittedly this is easier said than done, but taking the time to take a step back – even waiting a day or two – before reviewing their comments will make applying their feedback much easier. 

None of us are perfect at what we do. Learning to take feedback in stride will allow you to continue to grow as a writer by incorporating different styles, editorial perspectives, and syntactical choices into your ever-growing writer’s toolbox. Not taking feedback seriously puts your drafting abilities in danger of stagnation and, consequently, your paralegal career. 

Here’s How to Turn Your Performance Review Into a Career Development Opportunity.

An Important Reminder

While this advice may seem easy to execute, the last thing I want to do is give the impression that becoming a great writer in the legal profession is a simple matter.

It is not. 

Learning to take criticism well, proofread meticulously, read often, and slow down your writing process takes immense time to acquire. But, there is a common thread throughout all this advice that will make this endeavor easier. 


Being intentional with all of your writing to incorporate your new vocabulary, feedback, or ideas you’ve gleaned from books, will pay dividends in the long run. Ensuring you work at these skills and others on a habitual basis will lead to great strides in your writing ability and, consequently, in your paralegal career. 

Meet the Author – Brett Surbey

Brett is a Corporate Paralegal at KMSC Law LLP in Alberta, Canada, and writes freelance in his spare time. Aside from spending time with his amazing wife and children, you can find him reading, writing, or doing anything nerdy.


  • Laurie Fields February 13, 2023 at 10:22 pm Reply

    One of the difficulties in paralegal writing is getting to know the “voice” of the author – which is not you, it is the lawyer for whom you are preparing the draft. In the end, it represents them, and you may have the greatest writing style ever, but if it is not theirs, it will not suit.
    Laurie F.

    • Denise Townsend Drouin March 6, 2023 at 9:43 pm Reply

      I am not (yet) a paralegal, that is why I am pursuing this area. I am a Legal Assistant, yet not currently, I do agree that you have to know the lawyer who is the lead of a matter. To know that person from the beginning in drafting up the information sheet of a case, in knowing what that lawyer looks for to help the case. By reading past case documents and watching/listening to the lawyer you can pretty much know what is needed

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