More about Issue Statements
My fifth suggestion for issue statements concerns their format. Most individual issues in my study consisted of a single "sentence." These appeared in three basic formats:
A. The interrogative format.
Example: Is the owner of a house liable in damages for injuries to a delivery person who fell on snow that had been on the property's private front walk for thirty hours?
This format often begins with a verb (such as "can" or "is"). Sometimes it begins with an introductory phrase, such as "Under Ohio contract law, . . . ."
B. The "whether" format.
Example: Whether the owner of a house is liable in damages for injuries to a delivery person who fell on snow that had been on the property's private front walk for thirty hours.
Technically, the "whether" statement is not a sentence but a fragment, and it can lead to awkward phrasing. But this venerable format is well established and is even preferred by some courts. In each state I studied, at least 30% of the issues began with "whether."
Those who choose the whether structure should note that it is a declarative statement and should end with a period, as in the example above.
C. The declarative format.
Example: The owner of a house is liable in damages for injuries to a delivery person who fell on snow that had been on the property's private front walk for thirty hours.
At 12% of the single-sentence issues, this was the least common format.
A smaller number--4.6%--of individual issues contained multiple sentences. And 2.3% of the issue sections contained separate, substantive introductory material.
Suggestions. I suggest that a brief writer consider using the most common format: state each separate issue as a single sentence. That format disciplines the writer to boil the issue down into a short, comprehensible statement. And, depending on the practice in the particular court, consider avoiding the awkwardness of the "whether" format by writing a question ending with a question mark.
The multi-sentence format has some adherents, but it remains significantly less common than the single-issue format. The brief writer might use it if an issue is particularly complex and not susceptible of expression in a single sentence.