The Elements of Legal Style / Edition 2

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Overview

Like the Shrunk and White book, The Elements of Legal Style offers authoritative, down-to-earth, and often witty advice on a broad array of writing concerns, from basic grammatical rules to enhancing clarity, force, and persuasivenss. Unlike Shrunk and White, it is written for lawyers, law students, judges and their law clerks - for anyone who writes in and about the law. With broad experience as a practitioner, academic, and writing consultant, Garner knows first hand where legal writing goes wrong, and he pays particular attention to these trouble spots. He not only reveals how and why lawyers spill their words verbosely, he also memorably shows how laywers can clean up their spills. In a section on commonly misused words in law, Garner crisply guides readers through the hazards of legal wordchoice.

When Garner's award-winning Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage appeared in 1987, it was acclaimed throughout the English-speaking world. Now he has written a new writing guide, this one inspired by Strunk & White's classic book, The Elements of Style. Packed with samples from noted legal writers, including Oliver Wendell Holmes.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Perhaps the most prominent proponent of good legal writing, Bryan Garner's style guide is patterned after the classic Elements of Style but with an emphasis on the special difficulties of writing about legal matters. With his own no-nonsense sensibility, Garner will show you how to write with more clarity and forcefulness and get your points across with panache.
From the Publisher

"Publishers each year spew out writing books for law students by the dozen. Forget them. This is the best. We had not believed that this classic work could be substantially improved. The inimitable Mr. Garner has proven this belief wrong, and happily so."-ABA Appellate Practice Journal

"Garner has given to the legal profession [an] extraordinary book....Invaluable."--South Dakota Law Review

"Bryan Garner...is rapidly becoming--if he's not there already--America's foremost authority on language and the law."--Barrister

"An expanded and more relaxed edition of his 1991 sourcebook."--William Safire, New York Times Magazine

Library Journal
A decade after the key first edition, Garner, editor in chief of Black's Law Dictionary and other works on legal writing, provides expanded coverage of appropriate legal prose and common errors in legal language, with the goal of encouraging clarity in legal writing. Throughout, he emphasizes fundamental rules of usage and fundamental principles of legal writing that range from punctuation, word choice, and syntactic arrangement to various forms of repetition. Suggestions regarding word choice give a good indication of his approach: he guides writers to strike out and replace fancy words, challenge vague words, and eschew euphemisms. In the foreword, Charles Alan Wright accurately comments that for lawyers "words are the only things we have to work with." Indeed, this book speaks not only to lawyers but to other writers as well, urging them to use style to develop persuasion, description, or analysis. Highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries. Steven Puro, St. Louis Univ. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195141627
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/21/2002
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 217,275
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author
Bryan A. Garner is the president of LawProse, Inc., a Dallas firm that teaches lawyers how to improve their writing. He is internationally renowned as the author of A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage (Oxford, 1987) and is now at work on a book on legal drafting. Mr. Garner has taught advanced seminars in Legal Editing and Language of the Law at The University of Texas School of Law and Southern Methodist University School of Law. He has lectured throughout the country, as well as abroad, on legal language and writing. Mr. Garner is editor-in-chief of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing and chairs the Plain-Language Committee of the State Bar of Texas.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Foreword
1 The Letters of the Law 1
2 Fundamental Rules of Usage 15
Punctuation 15
Word Choice 29
Grammar and Syntax 40
3 Fundamental Principles of Legal Writing 53
4 Some Matters of Form 75
5 Words and Expressions Confused and Misused 99
6 Rhetorical Figures in Law 149
Comparison 150
Wordplay 154
Syntactic Arrangement 160
Repetition 168
7 An Approach to Legal Style 177
Being Yourself 177
Exposition and Argument 181
Speaking Legally 191
Expressive Tactics 198
8 A Parting Word 221
App Eighty Classic Statements About Style 223
Index 241
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Interviews & Essays

Exclusive Author Essay
"Can an educated American say ____?" You can fill in the blank with any number of words and phrases. My friend and myself. It's me. Between you and I. Question as to whether. Fulsome praise. Hopefully. Final destination. Orientate. Center around. Someplace. Snuck. Seldom ever. Uncategorically. There are thousands more. These are questions that I field weekly in professional writing seminars. I do my best to answer them in A Dictionary of Modern American Usage.

One perennial question emerges when people ask about grammar: "What grammar book do you recommend?" What the person really wants isn't a grammar at all, but a good dictionary of usage. This underappreciated genre has alphabetical listings of all the most common trouble spots in the language. It's partly grammar ("fused participles"), partly word choice ("self-deprecating" vs. "self-depreciating"), and sometimes a mixture of the two ("It's me" vs. "It's I"). There are dozens of essays on subjects as diverse as Airlinese, Jargon, Punctuation, and Subject-Verb Agreement.

The language is shifting under your very tongue in ways that might surprise you. A Dictionary of Modern American Usage is intended to divert and entertain while providing guidance on where to stand if you want to avoid linguistic fault lines. My guidance is a blend of the traditional and the modern. I favor keeping our continuity with the past without letting the language become petrified. And I try to be down-to-earth. So forget "It's I."

How did I get into this?

At the age of 15, I realized that the use of the English language was my main intellectual interest. That being so, David Foster Wallace says in Harper's magazine that I must have been "repeatedly and savagely wedgied" as a teenager. Not so -- though I take his point. Actually, I kept my long forays to the college library a little secret within the family and still lettered in golf, led the high school band as drum major, and acted in school plays. By my junior year, when I had acquired the habit of occasionally using big words ("epizeuxis" and "ignoratio elenchi" were among my favorites), I was too big for the kind of abuse Wallace imagines. It took a few more years for me to outgrow this annoying habit of using big words, but in the meantime I worked assiduously to build my vocabulary.

And I had discovered my favorite literary genre: the dictionary of usage. H. W. Fowler, Wilson Follett, Theodore Bernstein, and Eric Partridge had become my literary heroes. By the time I was ready for college, I had essentially memorized everything that these writers had said about English usage -- in the same way that other kids memorize sports stats or car models. Not just any linguistic facts interested me: They had to be genuinely useful facts. They had to help me (or anyone) write better.

In college, studying liberal arts at the University of Texas, I was drawn to courses on literature, rhetoric, literary criticism, and the history of the English language. My plan was still, as it had been in high school, to become a lawyer and use my rhetorical skills within the law. But my success in publishing articles on Shakespearean language -- and the encouragement of my undergraduate mentors, the Shakespearean specialist John W. Velz and the linguistic historian Thomas Cable -- led me to flirt with pursuing a Ph.D. in English, with a focus on lexicography. I almost went that route.

But no. My fiancée (now my wife), a graduate student in political science, said she was convinced that I was meant to be a lawyer -- not an English professor. I agreed. When law school began, I was immediately struck by how many archaic phrases -- Elizabethan phrases -- were popping up in the judicial decisions I was reading. I went to the library to see what scholars had written about legal language, found very little to my liking, and immediately decided to write a book about legal language. Within the first week of law school, I had named it A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage. I wanted it to do for lawyers what H. W. Fowler had done for writers at large.

I ended up founding LawProse, Inc., which provides seminars for lawyers on brief writing and contract drafting. I wrote or edited more books on law and language, most notably The Elements of Legal Style and Black's Law Dictionary. I've now produced four editions of Black's -- the unabridged deluxe, the regular unabridged, the abridged, and the pocket. My whole approach to legal lexicography has been to try to make the law as accessible as possible to everyone -- to persuade lawyers that it's not in their best interests to use highfalutin jargon and gobbledygook. After all, avoiding these bad habits promotes clear thinking.

But my first love is the English language -- not just the legal part of the English language. So when Oxford asked me to write a dictionary of American usage, I was delighted at the prospect of broadening my horizons and dealing with the English language as a whole. Since I was following Fowler's model, I called it A Dictionary of Modern American Usage. The idea was to provide a guide for educated Americans who want an answer to the question, "Can I say this and still have credibility with readers and listeners?" My intended readers, quite simply, are educated people -- students, businesspeople, professors, novelists, nonfiction writers, newscasters, you name it -- who want authoritative guidance on where the language stands today.

"May I split an infinitive?" (Yes, but first you really need to know what one is.) "May I split a verb phrase?" (You'd better: Any other placement is awkward. And grammarians have consistently said -- there's a split!-- this since 1782!) "May I end a sentence with a preposition?" (If you want to. I have a two-page essay on the subject.) "Should I use the serial comma?" (Yes, unless you're a journalist.) On and on the questions go. My rulings -- since I'm playing the role of judge -- add up to a kind of linguistic jurisprudence. Like any judge, I have biases. Mine are in favor of clarity, simplicity, and credibility. (Bryan A. Garner)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2005

    Excellent reference book!

    I recently called on a professor of law at my alma mater for book recommendations on the subject of legal writing and he suggested two books written by B. Garner. During the process of purchasing the recommended books, I saw this book. Already familiar with Strunk & White's book, I decided I NEEDED this one. I do not regret my decision. This book is quickly becomming my favorite editing tool.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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