In Focus: Structure

Proper structure is necessary for a convincing memorandum. In order for an argument to be persuasive, the reader has to be able to follow your line of thought without the slightest obstacle or difficulty. That means that the structure of your memorandum should have no surprises for the reader. At all times the reader has to be aware of what point in your argument he or she currently is and what points are going to follow. How can this be achieved best?

Obviously, texts are sub-divided into paragraphs. To enhance the readability of your texts make sure that every paragraph is like a little package that contains everything the reader needs to grasp what you are trying to say. In a nutshell: One paragraph, one topic. Avoid basing your argument on unspoken presumptions or leaving out logical steps in your line of argument. Do not assume any knowledge on the part of the reader apart from the information you communicated in prior parts of your memorandum. As a rule of thumb paragraphs in general should be of a length of approx. 7-8 lines. Longer paragraphs are increasingly difficult to follow for the reader and shorter paragraphs can lead to a staccato-style you want to avoid as well.

Furthermore, use phrases to indicate to the reader that you are starting a new argument (furthermore, moreover, additionally, etc.), that you have finished the current argument (concluding, summarizing, etc.). If you have more than two argument paragraphs under the same heading it often is advisable to start the paragraphs by numbering them (first, second, etc.). In order to make it easier for the reader to follow your line of argument use logical operators to connect sentences and particularly to indicate that the next part is a conclusion (thus, hence, therefore, consequently, etc.). Do make sure, however, that the logical link between the two sentences that is expressed by the operator used really is reflected in the content of the two sentences, i.e. particularly that the second sentence really follows from the first sentences.

Also, properly link your lines of argument with each other. In addition to your main line of argument you should, whenever possible, have at least one alternative line of argument. An alternative line of argument only becomes relevant where you failed to convince the reader with your primary line of argument. Sometimes these lines are dictated by the law, e.g. if the Claimant argues that it avoided the contract, the Respondent will reply primarily that it did not breach the contract and alternatively that any alleged breach was not fundamental. It is important to include indicators that show how the different lines of argument relate to each other in order to avoid confusing the reader or even accidentally giving in on points favorable to the other party. It is advisable to introduce an alternative line of argument with the term "alternatively,". If you want to add an additional line of argument you could use the phrase "in any case,". Use these indicators consistently throughout the memorandum. Further, take care in phrasing the alternative line in a way that makes clear that you are not giving up your first line of argument. Start out by repeating your primary line of argument using phrases like "even if the Tribunal were to find that..." and use descriptors like "alleged".

Example Lines of argument.jpg

Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Memorandum for Claimant, 14th Vis Moot, 1st place

The next important technique you should apply is the use of so-called road maps. Road maps tell the reader where your line of argument is going. They should be used before every new outline level and announce the points you are going to make in the following paragraphs. Start your road maps with phrases like "it will be demonstrated", "in the following it will be shown", etc.

 Example Roadmap.jpg

Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Memorandum for Claimant, 14th Vis Moot, 1st place

Generally, redundancies should be avoided. Do not reuse the same argument over and over in different places throughout your memorandum. Oftentimes, repetition of an argument is an indicator for a flawed structure. Sometimes, however, an argument can be appropriately used in several places in your line of argument. In such a case, you should limit the use of the argument to one occasion (you should be able to distribute different arguments among the different places where they potentially could be used). Of course, these rules are not without exception and an argument might be so powerful that it is worth repeating it. But this should only be done in cases where repeating the argument actually makes the memorandum more persuasive and not just for the sake of repetition.

While redundancies are bad, not every repetition is redundant. In particular, your conclusions should be repeated to make sure that the reader really takes them in. Ideally, your main conclusions should come up three to four times in the exact same wording: in the road map, in the heading, in the final conclusion, and in the result of the issue (see infra).

Sum up your major lines of argument, i.e. in general your first outline levels, by implementing concluding paragraphs that concisely repeat the major points of the respective arguments. Introduce these paragraphs with phrases like "summing up, to conclude". It can be a little tricky to find the right balance between useful repetitions and superfluous redundancies here. As a rule of thumb, the closer the last occurrence of a conclusion is the less useful the repetition is. Issues should be concluded with a paragraph titled e.g. with "result" that repeats the most important arguments of the issue. Such result basically is the whole issue in a nutshell.

Example Result.jpg

 Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Memorandum for Claimant, 14th Vis Moot, 1st place

Last modified: Sunday, 18 September 2016, 10:15 PM