I-4-3-110.Exhibit - General Writing Guidelines

Last Update: 9/13/05 (Transmittal I-4-15)

  • Use simple words.

Example:

“The claimant, in her prior job, used machines, tools and equipment and performed writing of reports.”

“In her prior job, the claimant used machines, tools, and wrote reports.”

  • Omit surplus words.

Example:

“The clinical findings clearly show that …”

“The clinical findings show that …”

NOTE:

“Clearly” (or “obviously” or “plainly”) does not strengthen this statement. The facts speak for themselves — or they should.

  • Omit long introductory phrases which are extraneous, self-serving, and of no legal use. (If “connective tissue” is necessary, use it economically.)

Example:

“As previously stated, after careful review of all the evidence, the Appeals Council concludes that the claimant first became disabled when the medical evidence established the existence of an impairment which equaled the Listing.”

“The Appeals Council concludes that the claimant first became disabled when the medical evidence established the existence of an impairment which equaled the Listing.”

“It is the opinion of the Appeals Council that there is insufficient evidence to support the finding that …”

“There is insufficient evidence to support the finding that …”

“It is the belief of the Appeals Council that your medication would not interfere with your ability to work.”

“The record does not establish that your medication would interfere with your ability to work.”

  • Do not use in-house jargon.

Example: “20/40”

Example: Acronyms not preceded by an explanation, such as SGA, RFC, TWP, EPE, etc.

  • Do not use “opine” or “opines.”

  • Check for verb-subject agreement.

Example: “The record shows …”

“The documents show …”

  • Use sentences and paragraphs of reasonable length.

NOTE:

A full-page paragraph is not “user friendly.”

  • Cite exhibit numbers when referring to portions of the record and, where multi-page exhibits are referenced, give page numbers.

  • Do not use language that is emotionally charged, provocative, or may cause offense.

Examples:

“The Administrative Law Judge grossly misstated the evidence.”

“Certain aspects of the evidence were set forth inaccurately in the decision.”

“Counsel completely disagrees with the Administrative Law Judge's decision by stating that …”

“Counsel contends …”

“Your attorney's arguments are without merit …”

“Your attorney's arguments …”

  • Discuss medical evidence without using language that may discourage treating physicians from cooperating with the agency.

Example:

“This (your treating physician's) report was unreliable …”

“The report contained no clinical findings or laboratory test results.”

  • Focus attention on the decision under review, rather than on the Administrative Law Judge who wrote it. It is, of course, necessary to set forth clearly and concisely the reasons for the remand and the instructions for further action. However, it is not necessary to dwell repeatedly on the ALJ's “failures” or “errors” in such a way that could possibly undermine his or her authority in future dealings with the claimant and representative.

Examples:

“In arriving at that conclusion, the Administrative Law Judge failed to indicate the specific rule which directs a finding of “disabled”.”

“The decision did not specify any rule which directs a finding of “disabled”.”

“The Administrative Law Judge did not adequately develop the record.”

“The evidence of record is not sufficient to establish [the claimant's capacity to walk and stand throughout the day / reach overhead. etc.].”

“The Administrative Law Judge therefore erred in depending on Rule 202.16 to direct a conclusion of 'not disabled'.”

“Reliance on Rule 202.16 to direct a conclusion of “not disabled” constitutes an error.”