LawProse Lesson # 91

LawProse Lesson # 91

In The Winning Brief, why does Bryan Garner cite so many books on writing to support his 100 brief-writing tips? ANSWER: The whole purpose of the book is to counteract the sylistically wayward practices of inept brief-writers, from ill-constructed sentences to unreadable issue statements. As he is quick to point out when teaching his seminar “The Winning Brief,” Professor Garner wanted to debunk the idea that normal rules of prose style don’t apply to legal writing. You’ve heard the rationalizations before: “We must use all-caps headings!” “We must state issues as single sentences!” “We must begin with [formulaic filler]!” “We must close with nothing more than ‘For the following reasons . . .’!” “Who cares if the minutiae aren’t right — it’s substance that counts!” Etc., etc., etc. Impeaching the notion that bad writing is some form of lawyerly exceptionalism is the main goal of the tips. And the touchstone for putting any tip into The Winning Brief was that a substantial number of lawyers — at least a significant minority, but often a clear majority — were getting it wrong. So Professor Garner knew he’d need to cite judges and respected legal thinkers to support his seemingly iconoclastic advice. Hence the “Quotable Quotes” — 500 in all — in support of the 100 tips. Show them to your naysaying colleagues and ask, “What’s your authority to the contrary?” You’ll be amazed at the stunned silence you’ll normally receive in response. Source: The Winning Brief (2d ed. 2004).

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