Top Tips for Decision Writers, Part 2

This is part of a series of posts based on a recent presentation I did on decision writing best practices. Tips 1 through 6 are here.

7.   State your conclusion at or near the beginning of your decision. So-called “point first” writing has its supporters and detractors. However, readers of decisions invariably skip to the end of the decision first before reading. A decision is not a mystery novel.

8.   Tell a story with your evidence summary. A decision is not a transcript of the evidence. And summarizing the evidence of each witness separately leaves a lot of the heavy lifting for the reader.

9.   Condense as much as possible. See above, re a decision not being a transcript. The same applies to summaries of submissions. The reader should understand the submissions of the parties, but not in every detail.

10.  Borrow/plagiarize language that explains basic concepts well – e.g., credibility assessment. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. It’s good practice to cite the words of others, but you don’t need to do so when you’re plagiarizing from one of your own decisions.

11.  Cast a critical eye on turns of phrase and tweak them occasionally. Although recycling phrases and even paragraphs is a good thing (see above), it is also good to look at them occasionally to see if they’re still accurate and if they’re effective.

12.  Avoid Latin – and if you can’t, provide a brief explanation of it.

13.  Don’t include unnecessary personal information. Ask yourself, “what does this information add to the decision?”

14.  Do a literacy audit – is your writing at the appropriate level? Microsoft Word has a feature that can do a rough and ready analysis of reading levels.


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"Chapter 22: Unions and Collective Agreements", in Palmer and Snyder, Collective Agreement Arbitration in Canada, 4th edition, 2009 and 5th edition, 2013.

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