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  • Writer's pictureSheri McGuinn

Writing for your audience: the judge



Scales of Justice

Always write for your audience - whatever you are writing.


Few writers make a living from their fiction. One of my side gigs is writing social histories for sentence mitigation attorneys. When I'm writing them, I write for the final audience: the judge.


While the attorneys will review and tweak my reports before handing them over to the court, they are not my final audience - that's the judge who is deciding the client's future. I need to consider how the judge will regard the client.


They'll already have a report filed by the probation department, which details criminal history and includes some social history as well as outlining sentencing parameters. Fortunately, that report is provided to defense well before the sentencing date.


I start by reading the probation report as if I were the judge - considering how it sounds, how it might influence sentencing and why. When I start interviews, I know what needs to be countered.


I also consider that the judge sees convicted criminals day after day, many of whom show little genuine remorse, have long histories of criminal activity, and little to support the possibility of success in turning their life around. As I interview, I look for ways to make the client stand out. Starting with relatives and friends, expanding out to teachers, employers, and other professionals, I find people willing to share positive events in the client's life and offering support to help them stay out of trouble.


Approaching the judge from their point of view can make the difference.


Sheri McGuinn - Author Services, Book Shepherd. I edit, re-write, co-author or ghostwrite, format books, and coach authors through the self-publication process.

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