Unnecessarily, the writer grouped the four sources of information in two sets. The first set consists of items on which the memo "focuses," and the second set, following the phrase "In addition," consists of items from which "guidance can be found." The dichotomy of "focus" and "guidance" was not helpful.
Also, between the two sets, the connector "In addition" did more harm than good. Initially, it led me to think that the memo would identify more points of focus. When the memo didn't, the phrase "In addition" seemed to confirm that sources presented under the phrase "guidance can be found" comprised a new set rather than more items in the same set.
One generalization would have sufficed -- either "The memo focuses" or "Guidance can be found." Focus is the weaker choice because everything the memo discusses is a point of focus. "Guidance can be found" conveys more information. Not only does it identify the subject of the memo (sources of information), but it describes their value (they provide guidance).
Having settled on one generalization, we can reduce the two sentences to one. The rewrite can also delete verbiage: "Relevant [case law]" (would you focus on irrelevant case law?), "in conjunction with the law as it is set forth" (I dare you to find a useful word in that phrase), "of the New Jersey Code," and, last but not least, the unhelpful transition, "In addition." In the first cut, the rewrite looks to organize the set:
Guidance can be found in New Jersey's case law, in its Business Corporations Act (Title 14A), in the SEC release governing proxy voting by investment advisors, and in the New Jersey Corporations and Other Business Entities Practice Manual.
The sentence is organized around the point that guidance can be found in four sources. Whether to precede each of the sources with "in" is a judgment call. I like the repetition of "in" because it slows the sentence down, increasing the chance that the reader will absorb rather than skim over the information. Also, by the end of the long sentence, the signal from just one "in" would be attenuated.
Because the writer intends to say that the discussion will pay significantly more attention to case law and statute, the revision should incorporate the modifiers "principally" and "to a lesser degree," situating the four sources along a continuum of importance:
Guidance can be found principally in New Jersey's case law and Business Corporations Act (Title 14A) and to a lesser degree in the SEC release governing proxy voting by investment advisors and in the New Jersey Corporations and Other Business Entities Practice Manual.
I chose this paragraph for a column in part because I had to read it several times to understand it. Now that I have studied it, I no longer experience that confusion. I understand the paragraph in its original state. Ironically, this puts me in almost the same position as the writer, who could not achieve sufficient distance from the material to sense how difficult the text can be for a reader. Nevertheless, this converse of the "observer effect" doesn't compromise our analysis of the paragraph.
The writer built the paragraph stepwise, beginning with the thought that the memo would focus on case law and statute. Then the writer sought a rubric (a name, a characterization) for the other two sources -- the SEC release and the practice manual. The writer apparently did not notice that all four sources could be grouped under "Guidance can be found" and that modifiers ("principally" and "to a lesser degree") could be used to place the focus on the first two sources. Awkward prose is often built this way -- by committing to the first category that comes to mind. The beginning of the paragraph was like a false path into a maze: It worked until it didn't work. To avoid this kind of misdirection, ask yourself each time you are describing a multipart set whether your description is accurate and whether it is the best available.
Which is better, Version A or Version B? ABC Corp. is your client.
Version A: ABC Corp. does not believe that that the Court's August 15 Order applies.
Version B: ABC Corp. believes that the Court's August 15 Order does not apply.
Look to be affirmative rather than negative when your client is the actor. ABC Corp. appears more firm in its conviction if you say that "ABC Corp. believes" than if you say that ABC Corp. does not believe.
Also, in Version B, you get to say that the Order "does not apply," which is your point. In the weaker Version A, not only do you suggest that your client is wishy-washy (ABC Corp. "does not believe"), but you conclude the sentence with the thought -- thus giving it prominence and power -- "that the Court's August 15 Order applies." This is precisely the position you oppose.
If ABC Corp. were the adversary, I might go with Version A for the reasons given above and because it sets ABC Corp.'s personal belief against the dignity of a court order.Kenneth F. Oettle is senior counsel and co-chairman of the writing and mentor programs at Sills Cummis & Gross in Newark, N.J.