Subsequent to my previous post on footnotes in court decisions that caught my eye, Senior Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had one today in his opinion on a challenge to the Department of Energy’s collection of nuclear waste fund fees. In it, he takes the parties to task for using too many acronyms:
We also remind the parties that our Handbook of Practice and Internal Procedures states that “parties are strongly urged to limit the use of acronyms” and “should avoid using acronyms that are not widely known.” Brief-writing, no less than “written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble.” George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 13 Horizon 76 (1946). Here, both parties abandoned any attempt to write in plain English, instead abbreviating every conceivable agency and statute involved, familiar or not, and littering their briefs with references to “SNF,” “HLW,” “NWF,” “NWPA,” and “BRC” – shorthand for “spent nuclear fuel,” “highlevel radioactive waste,” the “Nuclear Waste Fund,” the “Nuclear Waste Policy Act,” and the “Blue Ribbon Commission.”
It’s advice that lawyers — and journalists — should take to heart.