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March 2014
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May 2014

Music can make you a better writer.

Lately I have been thinking that learning to play music can make you a better writer. I cannot explain why, except that music develops your senses of rhythm, euphony, and structure. So I was happy to see this article exploring why musicians do well in law school. (Hat tip to Stephanie West Allen.)

A few years ago, I picked up the guitar again after decades of non-use. Thanks to Ernie Svenson, I found a good music teacher. I have thought that the time spent learning guitar has helped me as a writer. But I couldn’t explain why. Now I have a bit of corroboration.

One space or two after sentences?

Over at Daily Writing Tips, Maeve Maddox provides historical perspective on a divisive question: do you type one space or two after sentences?

My opinion and practice: one space. If you disagree, no big deal. Unless you’re trying to squeeze a brief into a page limit, in which case those unnecessary extra spaces are costing you some valuable page space without improving the appearance of your text.

The Redbook (3d ed.)

Redbook-3rdToday I attended a triple-feature CLE by Bryan Garner: Advanced Legal Writing & Editing, The Redbook, and Making Your Case. To see whether Bryan’s spring tour will visit your city, click here to see the schedule. What I want to talk about this evening is what I learned in the Redbook portion of the seminar.

For years, I have had the first edition of the Redbook on my office bookshelf. For those unfamiliar with this book, it’s a style manual for legal writers. If you have a question about the right word, right punctuation, or right way to do something in legal writing, this book endeavors to answer your question. I’ve found it a useful reference for answering questions that arisen when writing a brief or editing another’s brief.

First, this preface: I am not one who immediately buys the next edition of whatever if the current edition remains serviceable. I use so-called outdated versions of the Bluebook and ALWD Citation Manual, because they still answer any question I have ever had about how to cite something. So since the first edition of the Redbook has served me well, I did not rush out to buy the second or third editions.

Having said that, here is my point: if you don’t have the third edition, get it. Compared with the original edition, the content is substantially augmented by more than 200 pages, not counting the indices and tables of contents. Perhaps more useful (time will tell) is the detailed table of contents in the third edition. (Both the original and third editions have general tables of contents, but the original lacks the detailed table.) The detailed table of contents is just another means of finding whatever you’re looking for more quickly. And in our business, time is money. Anything that answers your question more quickly is worth the investment.

Bryan’s Redbook seminar is essentially a course in how to use the Redbook efficiently to find the answers to your questions on grammar, usage, and style. For me, the seminar was worthwhile. If you buy the book and take the time to get acquainted with the indices and the tables of contents, you may figure out for yourself how to zero in efficiently on the answers you’re looking for. It may just take longer than having someone teach you how to use the book efficiently. Me, I don’t have a lot of extra time. So anything that speeds up learning what I need to learn is worthwhile.

So if you are serious about being a professional writer (which all lawyers are), then you need the Redbook. The optional part is whether to take a CLE class in how to use it. My opinion: if you are going to use the Redbook, then a little CLE time in how to use it is not a bad investment of time or money.