Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text with Exercises

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University of Chicago Press, Jun 5, 2001 - Business & Economics - 227 pages
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Admirably clear, concise, down-to-earth, and powerful-unfortunately, these adjectives rarely describe legal writing, whether in the form of briefs, opinions, contracts, or statutes. In Legal Writing in Plain English, Bryan A. Garner provides lawyers, judges, paralegals, law students, and legal scholars sound advice and practical tools for improving their written work. The book encourages legal writers to challenge conventions and offers valuable insights into the writing process: how to organize ideas, create and refine prose, and improve editing skills. In essence, it teaches straight thinking—a skill inseparable from good writing.

Replete with common sense and wit, the book draws on real-life writing samples that Garner has gathered through more than a decade of teaching in the field. Trenchant advice covers all types of legal materials, from analytical and persuasive writing to legal drafting. Meanwhile, Garner explores important aspects of document design. Basic, intermediate, and advanced exercises in each section reinforce the book's principles. (An answer key to basic exercises is included in the book; answers to intermediate and advanced exercises are provided in a separate Instructor's Manual, free of charge to instructors.) Appendixes include a comprehensive punctuation guide with advice and examples, and four model documents.

Today more than ever before, legal professionals cannot afford to ignore the trend toward clear language shorn of jargon. Clients demand it, and courts reward it. Despite the age-old tradition of poor writing in law, Legal Writing in Plain English shows how legal writers can unshackle themselves.

Legal Writing in Plain English includes:

*Tips on generating thoughts, organizing them, and creating outlines.
*Sound advice on expressing your ideas clearly and powerfully.
*Dozens of real-life writing examples to illustrate writing problems and solutions.
*Exercises to reinforce principles of good writing (also available on the Internet).
*Helpful guidance on page layout.
*A punctuation guide that shows the correct uses of every punctuation mark.
*Model legal documents that demonstrate the power of plain English.
 

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Contents

Principles for All Legal Writing
1
Framing Your Thoughts
3
For maximal efficiency plan your writing projects Try nonlinear outlining
5
Order your material in a logical sequence Use chronology when presenting facts Keep related material together
10
Divide the document into sections and divide sections into smaller parts as needed Use informative headings for the sections and subsections
14
Phrasing Your Sentences
17
Keepyour average sentence length to about 20 words
19
Keepthe subject the verb and the object togethertoward the beginning of the sentence
23
Unclutter the text by moving citations into footnotes
77
Weave quotations deftly into your narrative
83
Be forthright in dealing with counterarguments
85
Principles Mainly for Legal Drafting
89
31 Draft for an ordinary reader not for a mythical judge who might someday review the document
91
Organize provisions in order of descending importance
93
Minimize definitions If you have more than just a few put them in a schedule at the endnot at the beginning
97
Break down enumerations into parallel provisions Put every list of subparts at the end of the sentencenever at the beginning or in the middle
100

Prefer the active voice over the passive
24
Use parallel phrasing for parallel ideas
28
10 Avoid multiple negatives
30
11 End sentences emphatically
31
Choosing Your Words
34
Use strong precise verbs Minimize is are was and were
37
Turn ion words into verbs when you can
38
Simplify wordy phrases Watch out for of
40
16 Avoid doublets and triplets
43
Refer to people and companies by name
44
Dont habitually use parenthetical shorthand names Use them only when you really need them
45
19 Shun newfangled acronyms
47
Make everything you write speakable
48
Principles Mainly for Analytical and Persuasive Writing
53
the beginning the middle and the end
55
Use the deep issue to spill the beans on the first page
58
Summarize Dont overparticularize
62
Introduce each paragraph with a topic sentence
65
Bridge between paragraphs
67
Vary the length of your paragraphs but generally keep them short
72
Provide signposts along the way
75
Delete every shall
105
Dont use provisos
107
Replace andor wherever it appears
112
Prefer the singular over the plural
114
Prefer numerals not words to denote amounts Avoid wordnumeral doublets
115
If you dont understand a form provisionor dont understand why it should be included in your documenttry diligently to gain that understanding If y...
117
Principles for Document Design
121
41 Use a readable typeface
123
Create ample white spaceand use it meaningfully
124
Highlight ideas with attentiongetters such as bullets
125
Dont use all capitals and avoid initial capitals
126
For a long document make a table of contents
127
Methods for Continued Improvement
135
Embrace constructive criticism
137
Edit yourself systematically
138
Learn how to find reliable answers to questions of grammar and usage
140
Habitually gauge your own readerly likes and dislikes as well
143
Appendix B Four Model Documents
164
Key to Basic Exercises
207
Index
223
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About the author (2001)

Bryan A. Garner is the preseident of LawProse, Inc., a leading provider of continuing legal education in writing. He is also an adjunct professor of law at Southern Methodist University. His books include A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage, Securities Disclosure in Plain English, and The Winning Brief. He is also editor in chief of Black's Law Dictionary.

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