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Fear: The root of bad legal writing.

Jeremy Richey was kind enough to point me to this post at Illinois L@wyer. The post’s author, Jim Covington, quotes Stephen King: “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”

I think King’s observation applies to legal writing. From what I’ve seen, most bad legal writing stems from a drive to fit in with the herd—to do whatever everyone else is doing. People are afraid to do things differently from the way they see most others do them. Folks, if you strive to follow the herd, you won’t distinguish yourself. Dare to do things differently; it’s the only way to set yourself apart.

The importance of a good vocabulary — and how to build yours

Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” The more words you know, the better your chances of coming up with the right one. That is the point of this recent article by Troy Simpson. In it, he explains how a good vocabulary can enhance your power to persuade. Toward the end, he offers some concrete suggestions to help you build your vocabulary.

“The first draft of anything is shit.” —Ernest Hemingway

At Writing, Clear and Simple, Roy Jacobsen reminds us that the first draft is, well, just a first draft. Roy’s point is to do something Bryan Garner advocates: When writing the first draft, put your judge (your editor or critic) in the closet; just get the damned thing down on paper. That’s good advice. For legal writers, I would add this: Remember that, according to Papa Hemingway, your first draft is probably shit. So don’t get too defensive when it comes to editing. Nobody—not even a Hemingway—usually gets it right on the first draft. And chances are you’re no Hemingway.

Miscellaneous legal-writing web sitings