One of the rules I follow when writing anything intended to persuade someone else is this: No boilerplate. Here’s why. When I read someone else’s writing, I can tell when I hit a patch of boilerplate—a page or two of generic writing on, say, the standard for granting summary judgment, that could have been (and probably was) cut and pasted from another summary-judgment brief. As a reader, what do you do when you hit a patch of boilerplate?
- Read more carefully, making sure you take in every word.
- Skip ahead, looking for something you haven’t read a hundred times before.
Me, I tend to do 2 or 3. I never do 1. My guess is that most readers react the same way to boilerplate.
The reader who is skimming or skipping is not, at that moment, being persuaded. And “not, at that moment, being persuaded” is the best possible result of skimming or skipping. It’s also possible that the reader is forming the impression that the writer doesn’t have anything worthwhile to say.