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Sketches on Legal Style

For lovers of parentheticals, two articles

What converts a string of case citations into a persuasive tool? A parenthetical phrase or clause following each citation, stating exactly how the case supports the point being made. We’ve all seen parentheticals, and many of us use them in brief-writing. But I have not seen scholarly attention paid to parentheticals until I recently came across these two articles:

  • Michael D. Murray, The Promise of Parentheticals: An Empirical Study of the Use of Parentheticals in Federal Appellate Briefs (September 24, 2013). Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD, Vol. 10, 2013. Available at SSRN: Prof. Murray analyzes how parentheticals are actually used in briefs to extract the techniques used by the brief-writers.

  • Eric Voigt, Explanatory Parentheticals Can Pack a Persuasive Punch (October 14, 2013). McGeorge Law Review, Vol. 45, 2013, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: Prof. Voigt illustrates how parentheticals can be used and gives seven guidelines for writing good parentheticals.

I often use parentheticals for inductive persuasion: stating the point that I want to establish, then providing a list of cases from which the point is drawn. The parenthetical tells the reader exactly why the case supports the point.