How Punctuations on Your Legal Document Can Either Make Or Break Your Day

One of the most popular beliefs is that punctuations are unimportant for legal drafting. The responsibility for understanding the legal documents lies with the words and the punctuations used. If the other party wants to understand the documents properly, then it is in the power of the drafter to use correct punctuations.  Punctuations are the main component used for legal writing that people won’t notice unless it is wrong. If the punctuations are not placed properly it may mislead and create confusion, thereby proving the carelessness and lack of attention of the drafter. Thus, by using correct punctuations, it makes the other party, for example, the lawyers and judges to read with clarity and analyse the presenter’s point of view correctly.

Use of different Punctuations in Legal Drafting:


The most common punctuation used in drafting are commas. They generally create ambiguity in legal documents. Generally, it is either underused or overused. So basically commas should be used for separating independent clauses when they are joined by conjunctions. It should be used for separating three or more phrases or to separate words within a sentence. It is also used after introductory expressions.

For instances:

  1. Therefore, the defendant cannot file a counter-petition. (Introductory expression)
  2. Mr. X is the mother of the deceased, and is the applicant of the suit. (Independent Clauses)

Note: If other punctuation is used instead of commas, it will result in a comma splice.

  1. The property was awarded to three children who are a Doctor, an entrepreneur, an engineer (Separating words within sentences)


Most of the drafters skip the semicolons if they don’t know where they are to be used. Basically, it is used to connect two independent clauses which are related in meaning and add value to each other. Thus, the semicolon allows the person who reads to see the clear connection between the two incidents. Whenever, however or nonetheless is used in the sentence, a semicolon should be present.

For Instance:

The witness of the crime stated that the incident took place around 10:00 PM; the investigating officer arrived at the scene after five minutes.


This is generally used to denote the possession (ownership), indicate the missing letter or to indicate contraction.

For instances:

1 The accused can appear before Magistrate’s house for confessing the incident (Possession)

2 The court might pass the decree in favour of the defendant if the petitioner wouldn’t have appeared.

4.Dash and hyphen:

The dash and hyphen are most used in legal documents. This punctuation is used to show a relationship between word pairs which may be either connections or contrast. Also, they can be used for conversational colon or they may add emphasis for concluding phrase or indicating collective ideas.

5.Punctuation for citation:

The most important part to be included in a legal document is the citation of cases. So those cases should be cited properly. This citation involves a number of rules. So the proper punctuation should be used for citing the information. The citation should always begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop.  If the citation is used in the middle, commas should be used. When two or more cases are used for citing the same issue, then semicolon must be used. Also, the case laws used should be in Italics.

Drafting a legal document with proper punctuation may be time-consuming and may feel tedious but this proper punctuation raises the standard of the document. It also helps to build a strong structure of the case and increases the quality which makes the judges be impressed. The punctuation makes the lawyers day either good or bad depending upon its usage. So the draftsman has to make sure to use proper punctuation and make the usage as the first priority.

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