Legal Writing Resources

Legal writing is very different than novel writing. In legal writing, the goal is to clearly and persuasively communicate points of fact and law in as few words as possible. Judges and clerks are busy, so they don’t have all day to figure out what are your arguments.

@BryanAGarner is an appellate lawyer that writes a lot about legal writing. Bryan Garner co-authored a book with Antonin Scalia titled: Making Your Case – The Art of Persuading Judges.

Watch Bryan Garner’s video titled:

Five ways to improve your writing:

When you’re fumbling for words and pressed for time it might be tempting to dismiss good business writing as a frivolous thing but it’s a skill you must cultivate to succeed. As an editor in chief and author, I believe that it takes only a few words to make a strong impression, good or bad. Here’s how to win people over with your writing.
  1. First use personal pronouns skillfully.
    • Don’t over use I.
    • Instead, lean heavily on we, our, you, and your.
    • Those are personal friendly pronouns that pool readers into a document.
  2. Second use contractions.
    • Won’t, for example, instead of will not, don’t instead of do not.
    • Many writers are afraid of contractions because they were taught in school to avoid them.
    • But you won’t break any real rules if you use them.
    • And they counteract stuffiness, a major cause of poor writing.
    • Relax if you’d say something as a contraction then write it that way, if you wouldn’t then don’t.
  3. Also try to avoid passive voice.
    • Don’t write the closing documents were prepared by Sue.
    • Instead, write, “Sue prepared the closing documents.”
    • This guideline isn’t absolute.
    • Sometimes passive voice is the most natural way to say what you’re saying, but defaulting to active voice is the best way to prevent convoluted backward sounding sentences.
  4. Next be sure to vary the length and structure of your sentences.
    • You want both short sentences and long main clauses and subordinate ones.
    • You want variety.
  5. Avoid jargon and acronyms.
    • Most readers will find them tiresome.
    • It may be convenient to refer to COGS instead of spelling out “cost of goods sold” but if you throw in too many of these terms you’ll lose everybody’s attention.
Clear concise writing isn’t some mysterious art. It’s a skill you can learn starting with these five principles.

 

 

In 2016 Bryan Garner published a book titled: Garner’s Modern English Usage. Here is an introduction to his book:

Writing Style Guides

https://law.resource.org/pub/us/code/blue/

https://law.resource.org/pub/us/code/blue/IndigoBook.html

Indigo Book, Hard Cover

Legal Writing Tips

 

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