Writing Rules

The top 10

As every writer knows, there are a ton of rules to keep in mind. Here are just a few, some of which are pulled from the excellent Yahoo! Style Guide (which you can refer to if you want a detailed rundown of all the grammar and formatting standards we use here at Clio):

  1. Address our customers directly (“you”).
  2. Don’t be afraid of contractions—but don’t overuse them.
  3. Avoid jargon and clichés. We’re writing to help people understand our message, not to show off.
  4. Use American English spelling. Most of our customers are American and we’re more likely to be used to American English than they are to Canadian English. So Canadian of us, we know.
  5. Every word counts, so use dynamic and accurate verbs (“announced”) as opposed to words that aren’t as descriptive (“said”).
  6. Write positively constructed sentences. They sound friendlier and are usually more effective.
  7. Spell out abbreviations the first time, with the abbreviated form in parentheses. After that, just use the abbreviations.
  8. Use numerals if a number is 10 or bigger, but spell out numbers smaller than 10.
  9. Wordiness is the bane of a reader’s existence. Especially if it’s instructional copy. (e.g. use “because…” over “due to the fact that…”).
  10. It’s okay to end the sentence with a preposition.

Clio-isms

When describing Clio, keep in mind that we’re no longer just a software as a service (SaaS); we’ve now grown into a platform as a service. “Practice management platform” or “(legal) practice management solution” also work.

Although we are definitely in the cloud, not everyone knows what that means. Consider how tech-savvy your audience is if you want to use words that aren’t as commonly understood. And while we’re at it, don’t capitalize the c in “cloud.”

Remember: our customers aren’t always lawyers; there are also paralegals and legal secretaries in addition to lawyers using Clio.

Because we’re expanding into areas beyond the U.S., use “lawyer” instead of the America-specific “attorney.”
If you’re talking about the Bar, capitalize it (unless you’re referring to the kind at which you order a drink). Same thing if you’re talking about “the Court.”

Like we mentioned above, try to use “you” whenever possible—but if you really have no choice, opt for “customer” instead of “user.” As Jack Dorsey says, there’s a certain level of respect and service that our work will exude when we see our customers not as users of machines, but as people whose business and attention we value.

Writing for Clio's Blog

Because this copy will be online, there are some extra little things we can do to make sure people can find our content easily on Google. Here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Try to include key terms (SEO/SEM) in the headline so that search engines can pick up your post more easily.
  • Add these key terms in the body of your blog post where possible, but make sure it reads naturally; don’t jam it full of repetitive terms.
  • Have a strong call to action in every piece.
  • Use a picture and tag it with the right preview tags for social media.

Keywords

If you’re writing any content that will go on the Clio site, here are some words (in order of most effective to least effective) that you can use to help boost our search engine ranking. “But wait,” you’ll ask, “I thought you guys wanted to call Clio a platform, not software.” You’re right. These are the terms that people are using to look us up, and unfortunately, that’s something we can’t control (yet) if we want them to find us. Get creative with how you work them into your copy, like incorporating them without using them to describe Clio.
Remember: try to include whichever ones are relevant, but don’t word-stuff or force your writing to fit the words. Readability is always number one.

  • document management software
  • clio software
  • legal software
  • law software
  • law firm software
  • attorney software
  • case management software
  • legal billing software
  • legal technology
  • legal accounting
  • law office management
  • practice management software
  • legal billing
  • legal IT
  • time tracking software

Speaking our Language

Clio means serious business, but our ultimate purpose is to make lawyers’ jobs easier and to improve their quality of life. Even though it’s easy to get hung up on the fact that we’re talking to people who are professionals working in law, at the end of the day, they’re still people—and so are we. It’s okay to let loose a little.

What is Clio’s voice?

Our voice is an expression of our culture and our personality. If Clio were a person, this is how our friends would describe us:

  • We are helpful, but never patronizing.
  • We are friendly, but not silly.
  • We have lofty goals, but we’re not pretentious.
  • We are secure, but not restrictive.

Tone it down. (Or up.)

Our voice should be consistent throughout all of our communications, but our tone changes depending on the situation—just like how real-world conversations work. Before you put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard), ask yourself, “What’s the goal of this copy?”

To Inform

“Oooo-that-looks-coo

Maybe you want to tell the world about an exciting new feature in Clio. Maybe you just have some news to share about what’s going on in the legal space. But whether you’re talking about new trends in the business of law or how user-friendly Clio is, remember to avoid salesy marketing lingo—even if you think you’re being subtle (it’s never subtle).

Blog post

“By using the filter, you can narrow down which Matters or Contacts appear in your display based on what you enter in those custom fields. Sound simple? It is!”

Social media

“We just dropped the mic on legal billing. Check out our latest upgrade: ow.ly/wKBPa”

Guides

“Hey Jill, we made some updates to our billing themes. Check them out here.”

Email

“No matter if you’re a Clio veteran or newcomer, you’ll almost certainly learn something new in one of our training webinars. To see the full list, visit our Support page.”

To Educate

“How-about-that-I-l

There’s a slight difference between informing and educating. Whereas you’re creating awareness when you inform, you’re sharing knowledge when you educate. Use language that people will understand without talking down to them—it’s a fine balance. Try to sound not like your favorite teacher, but like your friend who’s showing you how to use that awesome new phone.

Blog post

“In fact, the U.S. Federal Government managed to save a significant amount by switching the Federal Labor Relation Authority’s case management system from a desktop, server-based system to a cloud-based, SaaS system.”

Guides

*Whitepapers, being reports, should sound a little more formal than our usual communications—but that doesn’t mean it should be jargon-heavy (it’s never cool to use words that no one will understand).

“Time-tracking and billing are other essential features of a practice management platform. The ability to track time from any device or location enables law firms to accurately bill for all hours worked…”

Tweet / Facebook

“What #lawyers of the future use today (hint: no hoverboards): ow.ly/wqCyG”

Email

“According to the Federal CIO Council, cloud-based software services offer positive benefits that cover economic, security, and business objectives. See their case study on how switching to the cloud helped saved both resources and time.”

To Help

“Whew-that-wasn’t-s

As hard as we work to make Clio the best that it can be, our customers often have questions. Sometimes, even complaints. They’re probably already a bit annoyed, so this isn’t the best place to be witty or funny. Be understanding and helpful, and answer their questions as directly as you can. A good rule of thumb: keep calm and don’t use exclamation marks to convey urgency or anything stressful.

Blog post

“Since learning of this vulnerability on April 7th, the Clio infrastructure team has worked tirelessly to patch and secure all systems affected by the Heartbleed bug by April 9th. If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at support@goclio.com.”

Guides

“@gracemlau Absolutely! You can add a Client Reference Number (for internal numbering), or use a custom field.”

Tweet / Facebook

“Hi Carl, I just wanted to follow up and see if there’s anything else that I can help you with or if there are any questions that I didn’t address in my previous response.”

To recruit

recruit

When you’re inviting customers (and potential customers) to try out a product or come to a Clio event, keep it casual and friendly. It’s like inviting a friend to try something that you’re excited about; show them why they should be excited too. We love our brand evangelists—they’re a huge reason why we’ve grown so quickly.

Blog post

“Clio will be bringing the party to the Tennessee Bar Association’s Law Tech unConference in Music City, and we’d love to meet up with you. Come network with the best and brightest in the Tennessee Legal Tech Scene, including Clio’s own Solutions Expert Steve McCauley.”

Tweet / Facebook

“Want to learn more about our new billing features? Join us for a live webinar in 30 minutes: ow.ly/wNyY3”

To delight (overarching)

“Honey…-I-think-I-lo

  • Whether we’re informing, recruiting, writing a blog post, or Tweeting, we should always aim to delight our customers. This goal should permeate all of our communication.
  • Just like in real life, you don’t have to be hilarious to delight someone. Sometimes, people just aren’t in the mood (like when a customer is feeling frustrated about something). In these situations we want to be helpful and solve their problem as quickly as possible, not crack a joke.
  • Although in most cases, a little bit of wit and smart humor will go a long way. Just… no knock-knock jokes.
  • The ultimate goal is to provide something of value so that our customers will truly enjoy interacting with us (over and over again). Everyone wins. That’s what delight is all about.