LawProse Lessons #77 & #78

LawProse Lessons #77 & #78

Lesson # 77
What’s the easiest way to resolve a debate about any punctuation issue? ANSWER: Look at two authoritative sources: The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style ch. 1 (2d ed. 2006) (with 50 pages devoted to punctuation) and The Chicago Manual of Style ch. 6 (16th ed. 2011) (with 43 pages devoted to punctuation). They should quickly answer any questions you have. And if they don’t, send an e-mail to
Lesson # 78
Why does Bryan Garner recommend footnoting citations? ANSWER: Because American legal writing has become polluted with midparagraph bibliographic numbers such as 132 F.3d 467 — and it’s far worse with Supreme Court citations. Parentheticals worsen the problem with interruptions that make it harder still to follow the writer’s main train of thought. Basically, legal writers can’t develop sound paragraphs when they burden the prose with this citational gunk. But Garner also warns against putting anything in a footnote that a reader must refer to. So he favors references in the text like this: “Three years ago in Flom v. Baumgartner, the Third Circuit considered whether . . . .” He wants no sentences in footnotes — only bibliographic info. For his entertaining debate with Justice Scalia on this point, see Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges 132-35 (2008). See: The Elements of Legal Style 89-92 (2d ed. 2002). The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style 38-41 (2d ed. 2006). The Winning Brief 139-58 (2d ed. 2004). Garner on Language and Writing 448-67, 472-83 (2009). Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 157-58 (3d ed. 2011).
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Bryan Garner’s seminars teach the habits of effective legal writers: how you can write about law using the same techniques that professional writers of nonfiction use. You’ll need an arresting opener, a clean narrative line, and polish throughout. How many lawyers are effective legal writers? “Not many,” Garner says. “But I like helping more lawyers move into the upper echelons.” Let Garner help you become not just a better writer, but a better thinker. The two go hand in hand. Make a difference in your career: join us for a day to sharpen your legal-writing and advocacy skills. Learn techniques vital to the effective lawyer’s arsenal.

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