If you’re like most people, you haven’t written long-form content since your English teacher in high school instructed you to write an essay. Yet your sentencing narrative will be one of the most significant documents you ever write. With words, sentences, and paragraphs, you will create a document that may influence your liberty. Other than your health, your liberty ranks as among the most important factors in your life.
Writing any type of document for the Court is an exercise in formal writing. In other words, defendants should pay attention to both spelling and grammar. If the letter is difficult to follow because of poor punctuation or grammar, the judge may not full grasp the meaning that you’re striving to convey. Take time to get it right. And if you need help, ask a friend to read the document. If your friend has trouble following your message, then you know that you need to write the document again.
Inexperienced writers may consider constructing the sentencing narrative with short sentences. Short sentences are easy to follow. Long sentences require more concentration. And if we don’t use proper punctuation, the letter can be incomprehensible. Compare and contrast the following paragraphs, and determine which is easiest to read:
- I am really sorry for what I have done and I hope that this Honorable Court sees that in my heart I’m not a bad person and I shouldn’t go to prison for a long time because I have a wife and kids that I love very much and they will need me to take care of them because they don’t have anyone else and besides it’s not really all my fault because I wouldn’t have gotten caught if my friend wouldn’t have told on me but besides that it wasn’t really that bad what I did because of lot of people smoke weed and pot is even legal in a lot of states right now so I don’t really think prison is going to serve anyone’s interest and its certainly not the right thing for me because Im not that bad of a person.
- Please have mercy on me. I’ve made a lot of bad decisions. I regret the harm that I have caused. I know that laws exist to protect society. As a citizen, I have a duty to obey laws. I failed. Since my arrest, I have begun working to make things right. I enrolled in a rehab program. I attend alcoholics anonymous. I am resolving my substance abuse issues. And I am volunteering at a hospital to help out. I want to be a better person. Please see the potential in me to do good. I can and will do better.
Clean, simple sentences are easier to follow for most readers. I hope these examples will be helpful to you.
A good narrative doesn’t require fancy language. Instead, focus on the message. Express your remorse and build a powerful case of redemption. Show that you identify with the victim and that you grasp the gravity of your crime. Take the time to use good grammar and proper spelling. Look at each word. If you are unsure of proper spelling, use a dictionary.
In the end, your sentencing narrative should show your judge that you appreciate the seriousness of this proceeding. Take the time to write in ways that truly express your position, without blaming others for the predicament you’re in.