Numbers and Dates Count

Math Errors are Expensive Errors.

Math Errors Cost in Real Dollars and in Credibility.

Proofread your numbers. Do they add up? Do they make sense?

Check your proofreading acumen.

It's 5 p.m. Your client instructed you to email the seller to increase the client's offer by 10% for the purchase of a farm and building.

Review the email. Do you press send?

My client's offer of $1,250,000 for the farmland and building at 200 Shore Oaks Drive still stands. However, she is prepared to increase her offer by 10% to $2,375,000, if you include the equipment listed below with the appraised values.

Compressor $  5,500
Combine $50,000
Forklift $30,000
Excavator $25,000
Spreader $12,000
Irrigation piping $  2,500

The offer to purchase at $2,375,000 will expire at 10 p.m. today.

Should you press send?


No way. Not until you:

  1. Recheck the offer to make sure every number is correct.
  2. Redo the math with a calculator to make sure all the numbers add up.
  3. Rethink the numbers.  Does it all make sense?

Ok. Let's see. 10% of $1,250,000 equals $125,000 and that would make the new offer $1,375,000 not 2,375,000.

I've mistyped a 2 for a 1. That's a million dollar mistake.

OK, once we correct the typo, does it make sense now? Not really.

Right now it looks like your client is increasing the offer by $125,000 for equipment she says is worth $187,500.

Let's double-check the math:

Compressor $  5,500
Combine $50,000
Forklift $30,000
Excavator $25,000
Spreader $12,000
Irrigation piping $  2,500
$ 125,500

We need to correct the final appraisal amount to $125,000.

Now, you push send.

Calendar Dates – Another Costly Error

  • Image of a calendar

    If you send an email,

    • "Please respond by February 30, 2016," or
    • "Our proposal must be accepted by Thursday, November 1, 2016."

    your correspondent will reply:

    • "There is no such date as February 30th." or
    • "November 1, 2016 is a Tuesday – did you mean Thursday, November 3, 2016 or Tuesday, November 1, or something completely different?"

Precision and Consistency Matter

Are technical terms defined?

If you say profit – what do you mean?

  • All amounts received less all expenses?
  • All amounts received less only certain expenses?
Have you used terms and words consistently?

Do you use more than one word to refer to the same thing? Variation for the sake of variation has no place in legal writing.  Using a synonym rather than repeating the precise term you intend just confuses the reader.

Do charts, figures, and graphics have consistent titles and numbers?

  • Image of 3 people looking at several charts and one person is pointing to one of the charts

    A chart called "Example 1" is followed by another called "Chart 2"

    A figure called "Graphic 1" is followed by another called "Image 2"

Formatting Makes a Difference

First impressions are important. The document's overall appearance determines a reader's first impression of the writer's message.

Did you give your reader a break with white space?

Did you use parallel structure for ideas and lists?

Nonparallel Construction
Parallel Construction:

The student intern's duties for the arbitration are:

To take notes at the hearing; (phrase)
The student intern compiles all documents; and (clause)
Summarizing of witness statements. (topic)

The student intern's duties for the arbitration are

Taking notes at the hearing
Compiling all documents for the hearing
Summarizing witness statements

Note: You use a colon if the stem or set-up is a complete sentence.

Did you use consistent numbering and fonts for headings, titles, and captions?

15 letter A in different fonts

Are your columns and rows in tables aligned properly?

Photo of a table with columns and rows aligned

Are your cross-references accurate?

Image of arrows pointing down with one arrow pointing up

If you state that something is mentioned "above" or "below," make sure these locators are correct.