What is meaningful writing?

I was once talking to a lawyer, who was a partner at a law firm in London. I asked him, ‘How challenging is it to be a good lawyer?’

He said, ‘Anybody can write a contract or a legal document but writing a really good one is very hard. A good document is one where if you remove even one word, it collapses like a house of cards.’

Put another way, each word should be meaningful, and if removed, should unacceptably alter the meaning.

In fact, this is not just theory. Check out the Indian Penal Code of 1861 — you can’t remove a single word without changing the intent of the law.

I think this is great guidance not just for legal documents but for writing in general.

If removing a word from your draft does not materially change your message or the intent behind it, remove it. Finally, only the absolutely essential remains — nothing more.

That is beautiful writing.

– Rajan

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