Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text with Exercises / Edition 1by Bryan A. Garner
Pub. Date: 06/28/2001
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Admirably clear, concise, down-to-earth, and powerful-unfortunately, these adjectives rarely describe legal writing, whether in the form of briefs, opinions, contracts, or statutes. In Legal Writing in Plain English, Bryan A. Garner provides lawyers, judges, paralegals, law students, and legal scholars sound advice and practical tools for improving their written
Admirably clear, concise, down-to-earth, and powerful-unfortunately, these adjectives rarely describe legal writing, whether in the form of briefs, opinions, contracts, or statutes. In Legal Writing in Plain English, Bryan A. Garner provides lawyers, judges, paralegals, law students, and legal scholars sound advice and practical tools for improving their written work. The book encourages legal writers to challenge conventions and offers valuable insights into the writing process: how to organize ideas, create and refine prose, and improve editing skills. In essence, it teaches straight thinking—a skill inseparable from good writing.
Replete with common sense and wit, the book draws on real-life writing samples that Garner has gathered through more than a decade of teaching in the field. Trenchant advice covers all types of legal materials, from analytical and persuasive writing to legal drafting. Meanwhile, Garner explores important aspects of document design. Basic, intermediate, and advanced exercises in each section reinforce the book's principles. (An answer key to basic exercises is included in the book; answers to intermediate and advanced exercises are provided in a separate Instructor's Manual, free of charge to instructors.) Appendixes include a comprehensive punctuation guide with advice and examples, and four model documents.
Today more than ever before, legal professionals cannot afford to ignore the trend toward clear language shorn of jargon. Clients demand it, and courts reward it. Despite the age-old tradition of poor writing in law, Legal Writing in Plain English shows how legal writers can unshackle themselves.
Legal Writing in Plain English includes:
*Tips on generating thoughts, organizing them, and creating outlines.
*Sound advice on expressing your ideas clearly and powerfully.
*Dozens of real-life writing examples to illustrate writing problems and solutions.
*Exercises to reinforce principles of good writing (also available on the Internet).
*Helpful guidance on page layout.
*A punctuation guide that shows the correct uses of every punctuation mark.
*Model legal documents that demonstrate the power of plain English.
- University of Chicago Press
- Publication date:
- Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing Series
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.50(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.80(d)
Table of Contents
Part One: Principles for All Legal Writing
Framing Your Thoughts
1. Have something to say—and think it through.
2. For maximal efficiency, plan your writing projects. Try nonlinear outlining.
3. Order your material in a logical sequence. Use chronology when presenting facts. Keep related material together.
4. Divide the document into sections, and divide sections into smaller parts as needed. Use informative headings for the sections and subsections.
Phrasing Your Sentences
5. Omit needless words.
6. Keep your average sentence length about 20 words.
7. Keep the subject, the verb, and the object together—toward the beginning of the sentence.
8. Prefer the active voice over the passive.
9. Use parallel phrasing for parallel ideas.
10. Avoid multiple negatives.
11. End sentences emphatically.
Choosing Your Words
12. Learn to detest simplifiable jargon.
13. Use strong, precise verbs. Minimize is, are, was, and were.
14. Turn -ion words into verbs when you can.
15. Simplify wordy phrases. Watch out for of.
16. Avoid doublets and triplets.
17. Refer to people and companies by name.
18. Don't habitually use parenthetical shorthand names. Use them only when you really need them.
19. Shun newfangled acronyms.
20. Make everything you write speakable.
Part Two: Principles Mainly for Analytical and Persuasive Writing
21. Plan all three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the end.
22. Use the "deep issue" to spill the beans on the first page.
23. Summarize. Don't overparticularize.
24. Introduce each paragraph with a topic sentence.
25. Bridge between paragraphs.
26. Vary the length of your paragraphs, but generally keep them short.
27. Provide signposts along the way.
28. Unclutter the text by moving citations into footnotes.
29. Weave quotations deftly into your narrative.
30. Be forthright in dealing with counterarguments.
Part Three: Principles Mainly for Legal Drafting
31. Draft for an ordinary reader, not for a mythical judge who might someday review the document.
32. Organize provisions in order of descending importance.
33. Minimize definitions. If you have more than just a few, put them in a schedule at the end—not at the beginning.
34. Break down enumerations into parallel provisions. Put every list of subparts at the end of the sentence—never at the beginning or in the middle.
35. Delete every shall.
36. Don't use provisos.
37. Replace and/or wherever it appears.
38. Prefer the singular over the plural.
39. Prefer numerals, not words, to denote amounts. Avoid word-numeral doublets.
40. If you don't understand a form provision—or don't understand why it should be included in your document—try diligently to gain that understanding. If you still can't understand it, cut it.
Part Four: Principles for Document Design
41. Use a readable typeface.
42. Create ample white space—and use it meaningfully.
43. Highlight ideas with attention-getters such as bullets.
44. Don't use all capitals, and avoid initial capitals.
45. For a long document, make a table of contents.
Part Five: Methods for Continued Improvement
46. Embrace constructive criticism.
47. Edit yourself systematically.
48. Learn how to find reliable answers to questions of grammar and usage.
49. Habitually gauge your own readerly likes and dislikes, as well as those of other readers.
50. Remember that good writing makes the reader's job easy; bad writing makes it hard.
Appendix A: How to Punctuate
Appendix B: Four Model Documents
1. Research Memorandum
3. Appellate Brief
Key to Basic Exercises
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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A sensible and useful book. I cannot tout the greatness of this book enough except that if you want to succeed as an attorney and if you take pride in your work you will want to read this book. Nay, you will long to read this book. On a more practical note, Legal Writing in Plain English has all the tools to help make an average writer better and bring a good writer up to the level of naturally talented. Amazingly constructed with examples, explanations, and exercises, I don't know how Bryan Garner was able to construct such a masterpiece and still have more to teach in other books. Let it not be a surprise that many law schools use this as a text for their legal-writing courses. And would it be surprising for anyone to find out that many of the largest law firms in the U.S. hire Bryan Garner to teach this book to their lawyers -- both associates and partners alike. But unlike those lucky few that had their firms bring Garner into their offices to teach their lawyers, I had to find out about this book the hard way and later than I should have. I encourage you to read this book even if you just borrow it from the library. But you really do need your own copy for your notes to fill the pages and also as a desk-reference book that should find company among other Garner books that seem to be permanently stacked on my desk, both at home and at work. When this book is thoroughly read and worked through along with Garner's The Redbook and The Winning Brief, you have all the tools that a third party can give you to make you an incredible writer. But only you can give the dedication needed to transform your writing into something that sings. I agree with the great professor David Foster Wallace, Bryan A. Garner is truly a genius. Buying this book is the first step to choosing to be a better professional. And how could you not look to the editor in chief of Black's Law Dictionary and the only U.S. Supreme Court Justices co-author (with Justice Antonin Scalia in Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges) to help you succeed in legal writing?