Moot Court Advocacy Series – Season I: ‘Written Advocacy’, Episode IX: ‘The Great Don’ts 2’

Hi everyone! Five ‘dont’s’ have been mentioned, we have five more to go! Let’s learn about common mistakes you should avoid while writing a moot court memo:

  1. Don not ruin the memo with typos and sloppy editing

One of the mistakes that is the easiest to avoid but makes a horrible impression if not eliminated is poor editing. A memo full of typos and other mistakes is harder to follow and is a sign of disrespect towards the readers. Make sure that in terms of its form, your written submission is impeccable!

  1. Do not argue substantive issues in footnotes

Some people have the tendency to supplement their argument with longer and shorter clarifications and explanation included in the footnote. I do not recommend it. Footnotes should only provide a reference to facts, cases o authorities you use to back your position. If you want to add something to the argument in it does not deserve to be in the main body in the text, it likely means it is simply unimportant.

  1. Do not overuse italics, bold, underline or capitalize

Italic, bold, underline, CAPITALIZE and these three combined TOOLS are very useful. They can effectively make sections of the text easier to distinguish. However, if used too often, the effect is quite the contrary: the memo starts to look ugly, is difficult to focus on and follow. How to find balance?

Firstly, often the rules of a particular moot specify it. They might state, for example, that you should use italics to quotes from cases and authorities or that headings should be made in bold. Always follow these requirements.

If you have few or no requirements, be moderate and consistent. It is common to use bold for headings, italics for quotes and names of the parties from the cases you cite and underline sub-headings. Sometimes the words “Claimant” and “Respondent” which refer to the parties of the moot court dispute are capitalized.  I would be reluctant to go further. In case of doubt, check some real-life or winning moot court memos.

For the sake of clarity: unless expressly stipulated by the rules, colours different than black (letters) and white (background) are forbidden.

  1. Do not be informal

Your written submission is an essential part of a formal judicial proceedings and its style should reflect it. Phrasal verbs, contractions, colloquial vocabulary and other features associated with purely informal language should be replaced with their neutral equivalents. Bear in mind not to become too solemn or formal, though. You risk losing simplicity and clarity that are  crucial for the success of your memo.

  1. Do not overuse acronyms

Acronym and abbreviations are often a must. In a moot you have a limit on the number of pages or words you can use. It is unwise to waste it by repeating several times a particularly long name of a party, an institution or an act of law. Making a list of abbreviations and inserting it next to the table of contents is usually a good idea.

Even if you create such list, when you use a particular name for the first time in the memo write its full version and the acronym you gave it in brackets next to it: (‘like this‘). It will give the readers an opportunity to learn the acronym even without resorting to the list.

If possible, look for equivalents that are intuitive. For example, the Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts that you will likely invoke in cases involving states are a perfect candidate for an acronym. However, it is much better to shorten them to ‘ILC Articles’ (what should be understood by pretty much everyone in the context of states’ responsibility) instead of bizarre ‘ARSIWA’, hardly familiar to anyone.

In any event, if you can avoid using an acronym, stick to the original name. If you flood your readers with a long list of obscure abbreviations, they may find your written submission hard to follow.

Cheers,

Marek

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