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Leave a Paper Trail Whenever Possible As Part of a Clear Writing Discipline

As mentioned in previous blogs, many years ago I was involved in the case when singer/actress/entertainer Doris Day won a huge monetary award against her former lawyer Jerry Rosenthal. The trial judge found Rosenthal’s representation of Day to have many faults. He also found Rosenthal’s testimony at trial to be non-believable. The judge’s decision was affirmed on appeal.

Despite these shortcomings, I found Rosenthal to have excellent writing skills. One of them was the regimen he followed to keep track of his writings, i.e., creation of a paper trail. His use (some would say “over use”) of this practice is described in more detail in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” available on amazon.com/Kindle books and in print. For ease of reference I have repeated here what I wrote in my book on this subject.

“In affirming the trial court’s decision, the appellate court tagged Rosenthal as a “notorious note-keeper,” not without considerable justification. (For clarification, it should be noted that I was not involved in the appeal). To this appellation, I would add the adjective “meticulous.” That Rosenthal had a propensity for writing memos and letters was clear from the huge paper trail he left in the case. The record was littered with his writings, often in his own handwriting. He wrote a memo to memorialize, well, everything, and letters to do the same. And every memo was inscribed with, not only his initials, but the date and the time it was created.

The trial judge in his final decision referred to the “patina” of paper created by Rosenthal, which surrounded the case. In other words, her thought that all of Rosenthal’s memos and letters were a cover up to disguise his wrongdoing, to give some semblance of authenticity to his conduct…

As part of this practice, Rosenthal made a dairy entry on May 11, 1956 to memorialize a conversation he had with Doris Day on that date explaining the May 11, 1956 retainer agreements he reached with her and Marty Melcher. In these agreements, Rosenthal was given a ten percent interest in the Melchers’ earnings and investments. Later in 1963, he and Melcher agreed to build a financial empire together using Day’s money as capital, together with Melcher’s business experience and Rosenthal’s legal experience as contributing factors. Pursuant to this “Empire Agreement,” Rosenthal was to withdraw from the practice of law so as to devote all of his time to building the empire and was to be paid a salary of $100,000 per year plus expenses. He would be a fifty percent partner with the Melchers.

The judge did not believe that Rosenthal could explain the May 11, 1956 agreements to Day in 25 minutes, as he testified, and so disbelieved his testimony about everything, including the 1956 fee agreements and the later Empire Agreement, despite finding certain “chicken tracks of irrefutable facts” surrounding the latter. The judge consequently disbelieved Rosenthal’s entire seventeen days of testimony in the case. This ruling was based on the “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” (false as to one thing, false as to everything) doctrine. An interesting doctrine which could have application outside the field of law, e.g., politics, it formed a major basis for the court’s findings against Rosenthal, including the finding that his services to the Melchers over approximately twenty years of time were absolutely worthless.

But, notwithstanding this ruling against Rosenthal, the point to be made is that your writing skills should be applied to pursue the very same “note keeping” practices used by him. Becoming immersed in the vast ocean of records in the case could not help but leave a definite impression on me. It provided the impetus for me to upgrade my own record keeping habits. I increased my efforts to memorialize all telephone conversations by note or memo, and to follow up telephone and other conversations by letter and, later, by email, where appropriate.

Agreements, formal or informal, deadlines, things to do, errands, etc., all deserve to be put in writing. It’s good personal and business practice to leave a paper trail whenever possible, not only as a reminder of deadlines, but so as to avoid any misunderstandings as to who said what, when it was said, where it was said, etc. I still follow these practices today.”

Copyright © 2013. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.

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Filed under active voice, clear writing, good diction, history, punctuation, sound sentence structure, tips for good diction, Writing Improvement

Learn To Create A Paper Trail As Part of Your Clear Writing Skills; Help The Economy As Well

Unfortunately, widespread unemployment still plagues the nation.  The development of clear writing skills will help to put you in a position where you can increase your opportunities for job placement, earnings potential, and career advancement.  It will also, in the process, help to improve the economy by adding your own writing skills to the labor force, thereby increasing your chances of getting hired and potentially contributing to the reduction of unemployment.  You can start adding to your writing skills by learning to create a paper trail.

As an integral component of my daily routine while practicing law, I developed the habit of memorializing everything I did.  This is an extremely valuable practice to use, and I urge you to follow suit.  Not only will the creation of such a paper trail be of immeasurable benefit to you as a personal or business reminder of important dates and events, but this habit will force you to write more, and thus will allow you to accomplish a necessary step on the road to learning clear writing skills.  As this blog has repeatedly advised, you must write as much as possible to teach yourself the clear writing skills recommended here.

Agreements, formal or informal, deadlines, important events, issues for future follow up, errands, etc., all deserve to be put in writing, whether by follow-up letter or by memo to the file.  It’s good personal and business practice to leave a paper trail whenever possible, not only as a reminder of matters requiring your attention such as deadlines, but to create a written backup to avoid any possible misunderstandings as to who said what, when it was said, where it was said, etc.  I still follow these practices today.

There is no better place to begin creating a paper trail than by writing letters.  Expertise in letter writing, including emails, should be an indispensable part of your writing arsenal and it is important to leave a trail for any follow up.

There are manifold uses for letters.  One of the most important uses is to help you find employment.  If you are in the market for a job, it is essential to use a cover letter to accompany any resume which you send out.  The cover letter will serve to introduce you personally to the prospective interviewer.  But, the letter must be well written; poorly worded letters will get you nowhere and will wind up in the trash.  If a letter is worded improperly, i.e., poor grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc., the reader may conclude on the basis of the letter alone, without even reading your resume, that you are not qualified for the position.  It will not make any sense for any interviewer to hire someone who does not write well because it will reflect badly on the company and may even cause it to lose business.  The letter should employ clear writing techniques, and be visually attractive.  It should specify the position you are seeking and state how you learned about it.  It should also explain why you are qualified for the position you are seeking and how your qualifications will benefit the company.  Close the letter by referencing your enclosed resume, requesting an interview, and stating when you will be available.

A properly worded letter of inquiry about a job opportunity may open a door of opportunity for you not otherwise available.  Clear writing skills are most important here.  Remember, you are selling yourself when you write.  Unless the letter establishes you as a credible writer, the reader may not consider your qualifications even if you are well qualified for the position.

Also, sending a thank you letter to acknowledge an interview may make a difference to the interviewer.  It is a good follow up to any interview and is an important part of the paper trail being discussed here.

Business letters should be clear, to th©e point, and correctly punctuated and formatted.  Properly written, visually attractive letters will reflect favorably on you individually as well as any company that employs you.  Written confirmation of all business transactions should be standard practice.

Leaving a paper trail for future reference is a good approach to the development of clear writing skills.  This habit will go a long way to avoid misunderstandings and is always a good business practice.

Copyright © 2013.  Arnold G. Regardie.  All rights reserved.

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Filed under active voice, clear writing, good diction, punctuation, sound sentence structure, tips for good diction, Writing Improvement