What’s the most frequent and serious mistake in brief-writing and motion-writing?
Answer: Failing to frame the deep issues on page 1 — so that anyone, anyone, will understand the essential legal problems to be solved. It should be a dispassionate but persuasive statement of the issues.
For instruction on precisely how to do it, see:
Garner on Language and Writing 120-48 (2009).
The Elements of Legal Style 184-87 (2d ed. 2002).
The Winning Brief 53-97 (2d ed. 2004).
Scalia & Garner, Making Your Case 85-88 (2008).
LawProse Lesson #68
What’s the most frequent punctuation error that transactional lawyers make?
Answer: Failing to use the serial comma (aka the “Oxford comma”). Its omission is a mistake in legal instruments because litigable ambiguities often result.
For overwhelming evidence of the preference for including the serial comma, see:
Garner on Language and Writing 643-44 (2009).
Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 731 (3d ed. 2011).
Legal Writing in Plain English 148 (2001).
The Elements of Legal Style 15-16 (2d ed. 2002).
The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style sec. 1.3(a), at 3-4 (2d ed. 2006).
The Winning Brief 293-95 (2d ed. 2004).
Attend the most popular CLE seminar of all time. More than 215,000 people—including lawyers, judges, law clerks, and paralegals—have benefited since the early 1990s. You'll learn the keys to professional writing and acquire no-nonsense techniques to make your letters, memos, and briefs more powerful.
You'll also learn what doesn't work and why—know-how gathered through Professor Garner's unique experience in training lawyers at the country's top law firms, state and federal courts, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies.
Professor Garner gives you the keys to make the most of your writing aptitude—in letters, memos, briefs, and more. The seminar covers five essential skills for persuasive writing:
framing issues that arrest the readers' attention;
cutting wordiness that wastes readers' time;
using transitions deftly to make your argument flow;
quoting authority more effectively; and
tackling your writing projects more efficiently.
He teaches dozens of techniques that make a big difference. Most important, he shows you what doesn't work—and why—and how to cultivate skillfulness.