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Edward P.J. Corbett and Robert J. Connors, Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student

Rhetoric2 If you're looking for a good New Year's resolution, I suggest buying and reading Classic Rhetoric for the Modern Student, by Edward P.J. Corbett and Robert J. Connors. At over 540 pages, it's not light reading. But it's not difficult reading either.

I won't go so far to say that every lawyer should read this book. I will say that every lawyer needs to know what's in this book. And having read about 3/4 of this book (I'm still working on it), I'll say that every law school ought to have a required course in rhetoric. If you've never studied rhetoric before, this book can fill that gap in your education.

For law students and other legal writers in the U.K.

Bruce Grant of the Newcastle Law School presents this guide to legal writing. In the synopsis, Mr. Grant explains why law students at Newcastle need to know this stuff:

This document has been approved by the Board of Studies of Law in an attempt to set a standard for acceptable legal writing. If you follow its advice, you cannot be open to criticism. If you do not, you may be criticised, and you may have marks deducted.

The document contains advice about good style for legal writing, defines an acceptable house style for the use of footnotes, and outlines rules for the citation of primary and secondary legal sources.

(Hat tip to Parikshit (pronounced Purrikhshith).

One more post about French spacing (I promise this is the last one. No, really.)

In response to my post about French spacing (the practice of inserting two spaces after each sentence), my friend and former colleague Brad Parker e-mailed me a collection of links about the topic:

  • Writer and webmaster Ashley Pond lists French spacing as a "layout mistake."
  • Allan Haley writes that French spacing,  "[c]ommon in books before the 19th century, it became the norm for copy written with a typewriter. French spacing is now unnecessary and distracting— one space after a period is plenty."
  • Finally, this link-laden page of the All Experts Encyclopedia explains the origins of the practice and of the term "French spacing."

Apparently it's called "French spacing"

It says here that the practice of adding two spaces to the end of a sentence is called "French spacing."1 It also says (without citation) that "French spacing is uniformly required in legal writing in the U.S." I don't see that anywhere in F.R.A.P. 32, but if it's on the Internet, then it must be true.

Prior posts on this controversy are here and here.

1Hat tip to Legal Writing Prof Blog.


The Plain English Campaign has announced the winners of this year's Golden Bull Award, given for "the worst examples of written tripe." As you might expect, finalists include some attempts at legal writing:

  • Hereby in accordance with the provision of the Building Act 1984, Section 32 declares that the said plans shall be of no effect and accordingly the said Act and the said Building Regulations shall as respects the proposed work have effect as if no plan had been deposited.

(Hat tip to Bad Language.)

One space or two - redux

A few weeks ago, I referred here to Ken Adams's post about inserting only one space, not two, after sentences. Two other bloggers have joined the fray: Steve Minor, in favor of one space; and the author of Shrieks from the Booby Hatch, in favor of two.

So now we have two issues too divisive for legal writers to discuss in a social setting:

Date help

It may not improve your social life, but has several tools to help you file your next brief or motion on time.

  • A day counter, which calculates the number of days between any two dates.
  • A date calculator, used to determine the nth day before or after a given date.
  • Like years, very handy for setting dates on pre-Y2K machines. (I used this yesterday, after changing the battery in my ancient wristwatch, to re-set the date. My watch now thinks it's 1989 again.)
  • Calendar converter, for converting dates between the Gregorian, Julian, Mayan, Persian, Indian, Hebrew, Baha'i', Islamic, and French Republican calendars. For tech geeks, this tool also provides, for the given date, the ISO 8601 week-and-day and day-of-year, Unix time value, and Excel serial day (PC and Mac).

The importance of following the rules

The first thing any lawyer should do before beginning to write a brief is to review all the court's rules governing the brief's form and content. Reviewing the rules is a good idea no matter how many times you've written a brief before. The rules keep changing. If you don't review the rules before you begin writing, you may miss an important amendment.

If you skip this step in your preparation, you risk being on the receiving end of some unpleasantness from the bench. For example, in an opinion issued yesterday, Judge Posner of the 7th Circuit took to task the lawyers from both sides of a case, for failing to follow court rules in drafting their jurisdictional statements. To read the juicy parts of the opinion, click here for Howard Bashman's synopsis. To read the entire opinion, click here.

Now one can believe, as Judge Evans did in his concurrence, that Judge Posner was too hard on the lawyers. My point is this: Whether or not Judge Posner's ire was justified, you don't want to be on the receiving end. One way to avoid being on the receiving end is to always review the rules and follow them every time you write a brief.