Tag Archives: Bryan Garner

Writing Potpourri #1

1. Writing guru Constance Hale shares a blog about slow writers and slow writing. I’m a slow writer (if you count multiple revisions), and the slow writing angle is interesting, although it’s probably not something busy lawyers and others would like to consider. But consider the benefits and intentions before casting the ideas aside.

2. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker has just published a new book about writing,The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (2014). I haven’t read it yet, but we get a bit of a preview in this shorter piece on “Why Academics Stink at Writing“, which I fear rivals a lot of legal writing for the title of most boring and numbing. Read this critique of academic writing and apply it to your briefs, and you’ll become more persuasive. If nothing else, a judge will be more likely to read what you’ve written. 

3. This piece from Farnum Street is a portion of the transcript of a conversation between David Foster Wallace and legal writing guru Bryan Garner. The entire conversation becomes a book entitled Quack This Way: David Foster Wallace and Bryan A. Garner Talk Language & Writing.

Legal Writing Potpourri #2

1. R+W Legal Consultants links to an academic paper from Judith Fischer entitled “Add Punch to Your Legal Writing“. Only three pages long, it works as a nice cheat sheet  for cleaning up your legal writing.

2. Legal Writing Prof blog  points to the latest in the ABA Journal from legal writing guru Bryan Garner about words that we lawyers should excise from our vocabularies. While I’m tempted to keep an occasional “whereas”, in fact, Garner is certainly right. I work to expunge “shall” in any legal document. I drafted a lot of ordinances and contracts without it, and the monstrosity “and/or” is just that: a monstrosity. (Remember: “Or includes and“. Yes, well worth a couple of minutes of reading time.

3. Legal Writing Prof blog also does a brief review of a new book by William Domnarski that addresses (in part) legal writing. Not having read the original pieces discussed, I hesitate to comment too much. However, I agree with Legal Writing Prof that good writing is good writing, and what lawyers do is add legal terminology (different that mere jargon or “word gravel”) to their prose. Also, Bryan Garner (see above) is a very useful resource. Finally, writing and thinking go hand in hand.

Damn the Citations & Go Write Ahead!

Okay,  with apologies to Admiral Dewey (“Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead”), I couldn’t resist the caption. The point, set out by my favorite legal writing guru, Bryan Garner, is that citations out to be relocated to the bottom of the page because they make reading the text so much more difficult.


With word processing, such a move is easy and without any major downside. If, at time of reading, you want to check the citation, it will be there (and if in an electronic document, with an appropriate hot-link to boot). But when reading for the gist of the argument, the use of footnotes for citations would make the reading and comprehension a great deal easier. Don’t we want to make our lives, including the lives of our judges (seriously), easier? Of course. Garner reports some courts have already adopted this better practice. More of them should do so.

You can read Garner’s ABA Journal article here.