The Third Stage of Abstract Writing - Critical Reading
Now that you have a draft of your abstract you are ready for the polishing phase. Edward T. Cremmins in his book, The Art of Abstracting 68-69, offers these three rules to assist in the editing process.
Rule 1. Is the abstract properly structured and unified?
Rule 2. Is the content of the abstract complete, coherent, and concise?
Rule 3. Does the abstract conform to both general style rules and conventions for abstracts and those special ones contained in the publisher's or information-system manager's instructions on the type and length of abstracts?
Writers need to make sure they have conformed to any requirements for the abstracts including word count, font, margin size, etc. Usually in law no specific instructions about abstracts are given allowing the writer relative freedom. If no length is designated, the writer should typically keep the abstract between 250-400 words.
The writer also needs to carefully proof the document for style and substance errors. The writer should double-check that information has been included for all the essential parts of the abstract as discussed in early posts. Once the writer is confident about the abstract's substance, he or she needs to line edit the abstract looking for typos and grammatical and punctuation errors. Reading the abstract out loud or reading it backwards may help the writer spot the errors more easily. The writer should be particularly mindful about word choice that maximizes conciseness and avoids redundancy. Deleting colloquialisms, superlatives and other adjectives helps keep the writing concise.
Additional ways to achieve brevity include:
1. Deleting throat clearing phrases such as:
(These were taken from Bryan A. Garner, The Red Book A Manual on Legal Style 159-60 (West 2002)).
Instead of this:
As a consequence of
As previously stated
At the time when
At this point in time
Because of the fact that
Despite the fact that
Due to the fact that
For the reason that
In accordance with
Under; according to
In light of the fact that
In reference to
In the event of (that)
In the instant case
Is required to
Is binding on
It is probable that
On behalf of
Under; according to
With reference to (regard to)(respect to)
With the exception of
2. Deleting passive voice.
3. Avoiding quotations.
4. Not stating the obvious.
5. Cleaning out the clutter. In Anne Enquist's and Laurel Currie Oates's book, Just Writing 131, they provide the following example.
Clutter: At this point in time, we are in the process of filing a motion for summary judgment with the court.
Without the clutter: We are filing a motion for summary judgment.
6. Looking for the word "of" which often can be eliminated. Example: The Radley's dog not the dog of the Radleys.
7. Combining sentences especially if the first sentence merely treads water and forces the reader to go to the second sentence to get the important information.
8. Avoiding "it is," "there is," "there were" constructions.
The writer should read the abstract several times focusing on just one of these suggestions while reading. For example, after the writer identifies and reworks all passive voice constructions, the writer can move to finding and eliminating all throat clearing words.