Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text with Exercises
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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Principles for All Legal Writing
Framing Your Thoughts
For maximal efﬁciency plan your writing projects Try nonlinear outlining
Order your material in a logical sequence Use chronology when presenting facts Keep related material together
Divide the document into sections and divide sections into smaller parts as needed Use informative headings for the sections and subsections
Phrasing Your Sentences
Keepyour average sentence length to about 20 words
Keepthe subject the verb and the object togethertoward the beginning of the sentence
Unclutter the text by moving citations into footnotes
Weave quotations deftly into your narrative
Be forthright in dealing with counterarguments
Principles Mainly for Legal Drafting
31 Draft for an ordinary reader not for a mythical judge who might someday review the document
Organize provisions in order of descending importance
Minimize deﬁnitions If you have more than just a few put them in a schedule at the endnot at the beginning
Break down enumerations into parallel provisions Put every list of subparts at the end of the sentencenever at the beginning or in the middle
Prefer the active voice over the passive
Use parallel phrasing for parallel ideas
10 Avoid multiple negatives
11 End sentences emphatically
Choosing Your Words
Use strong precise verbs Minimize is are was and were
Turn ion words into verbs when you can
Simplify wordy phrases Watch out for of
16 Avoid doublets and triplets
Refer to people and companies by name
Dont habitually use parenthetical shorthand names Use them only when you really need them
19 Shun newfangled acronyms
Make everything you write speakable
Principles Mainly for Analytical and Persuasive Writing
the beginning the middle and the end
Use the deep issue to spill the beans on the ﬁrst page
Summarize Dont overparticularize
Introduce each paragraph with a topic sentence
Bridge between paragraphs
Vary the length of your paragraphs but generally keep them short
Provide signposts along the way
Delete every shall
Dont use provisos
Replace andor wherever it appears
Prefer the singular over the plural
Prefer numerals not words to denote amounts Avoid wordnumeral doublets
If you dont understand a form provisionor dont understand why it should be included in your documenttry diligently to gain that understanding If y...
Principles for Document Design
41 Use a readable typeface
Create ample white spaceand use it meaningfully
Highlight ideas with attentiongetters such as bullets
Dont use all capitals and avoid initial capitals
For a long document make a table of contents
Methods for Continued Improvement
Embrace constructive criticism
Edit yourself systematically
Learn how to ﬁnd reliable answers to questions of grammar and usage
Habitually gauge your own readerly likes and dislikes as well
Appendix B Four Model Documents
Key to Basic Exercises
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