... is that “defective drug attorneys” doesn’t mean the same thing as “defective-drug attorneys.”
The quotation of the day comes from one of my favorite writing teachers, Roy Peter Clark:
We writers say we want more praise for our work, but, when it comes, we are often not ready to accept it. We are better at absorbing the blows of negative criticism, perhaps because we suffer from the impostor syndrome, that fear that this is the day that we will be found out, exposed as frauds, banished to law school.
... consider this quotation by Albert Einstein:
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
Although one might wish that the legislature had drafted its statutes with the absolute uniformity, clarity, and precision of an English grammar teacher, it is not the court’s place to require that the legislature draft its statutes with that degree of precision.
Gladstone Special Road Dist. No. 3 of Clay County v. County of Clay, 248 S.W.3d 60 (Mo. Ct. App. 2008).
Daily Writing Tips has this handy list of 50 wordy phrases with less-wordy substitutes. Print it out, tape it to your bathroom mirror, and have a look at it every morning.
Over at Bad Language, Clare Dodd has a great post on one of my tenets for persuasive writing. You could call it having the courage of your convictions. I call it not being afraid to write in your own voice. This requires that you believe in your message. Once you have acquired that belief, express it in your own words. Not in boilerplate from someone else’s brief. Don’t parrot someone else’s words. Internalize the message, then express your self.* Anyway, enough of my yacking. Click here to read and learn.
*Intentional space between your and self.
This quotation caught my eye. It comes courtesy of Bryan Garner’s legal-writing blog:
The order of ideas in a sentence or paragraph should be such that the reader need not rearrange them in his mind. The natural arrangement of ideas in critical argument is: Statement of problem; Marshaling of evidence, first on main points, then on subsidiary ones — the same sequence kept throughout the argument; Credibility of evidence examined; Statement of possible implications of all evidence not wholly rejected; The weighing of conflicting evidence in the scale of probability; and Verdict.
—Robert Graves & Alan Hodge, The Reader Over Your Shoulder 171 (1943).
I wish I were this rigorous all of the time. A quotation worth printing out, clipping, and taping to the bathroom mirror.
Just passing on an interesting post about informal style in writing generally and legal writing particularly, inspired by the Green Bag’s 2012 honorees for exemplary legal writing.1 It’s by Ryan G. Koopmans, a contributor to On Brief: Iowa’s Appellate Blog. Ryan advocates a less formal writing style. So do I, though I’m not sure that I’d call it informal versus formal. What I strive for is a relaxed, natural style—not prepackaged regurgitation of stock phrases, but language that comes from my own mind and heart.
Ryan asks the question, “Who is your style guide?” For me, it’s no one person. Two that come to mind are John Minor Wisdom and Antonin Scalia. I would not call their style “informal” so much as original and individual. Sames goes for Richard Posner and Alex Kozinski.
1 I’m not on the list.
I had no idea that the grammar checker in Microsoft Word can be customized, until I read this post by Wayne Schiess.
Wayne Schiess reminds us practicing lawyers that we are professional writers, and we should therefore act like professional writers.