Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was known for her clear, powerful prose. She learned how to write—how to write really well—from two undergraduate teachers at Cornell: Robert E. Cushman and Vladimir Nabokov. That’s right. In a 2006 interview with Bryan A. Garner, Justice Ginsburg explained that Nabokov “was a man in love with the sound of words.” He taught her “the importance of choosing the right word and presenting it in the right word order.” 13 Scribes J. Legal Writing 133, 135 (2010).
Then she wrote the splendid foreword to the anthology of essays Garner on Language and Writing (2009). There she wrote: “Lawyers serve their clients best when their readers can quickly and firmly grasp their points. Readers of legal writing, on and off the bench, often work under the pressure of a relentless clock. They may lack the time to ferret out bright ideas buried in complex sentences, overlong paragraphs, or too many pages. Strong arguments can escape attention when embedded in dense or Delphic prose. Lucid, well-ordered writing can contribute immeasurably to a lawyer’s success as an advocate and counselor.” (P. xiii.)
Justice Ginsburg also noted that she had “benefited from the wise and practical aid afforded by Bryan Garner’s style manuals, usage dictionaries, and other works.” (Id.) She called his writing “a model of precision, elegance, and clarity.” (Id.)
This fall, Garner is dedicating his courses to the memory of his friend Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.