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    Original Essays | March 10, 2015

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Plain English for Lawyers


Plain English for Lawyers Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Admirably clear, concise, down-to-earth, and powerfulandmdash;all too often, legal writing embodies none of these qualities. Its reputation for obscurity and needless legalese is widespread. Since 2001 Bryan A. Garnerandrsquo;s Legal Writing in Plain English has helped address this problem by providing lawyers, judges, paralegals, law students, and legal scholars with sound advice and practical tools for improving their written work. Now the leading guide to clear writing in the field, this indispensable volume encourages legal writers to challenge conventions and offers valuable insights into the writing process that will appeal to other professionals: how to organize ideas, create and refine prose, and improve editing skills.

Accessible and witty, Legal Writing in Plain English draws on real-life writing samples that Garner has gathered through decades of teaching experience. Trenchant advice covers all types of legal materials, from analytical and persuasive writing to legal drafting, and the bookandrsquo;s principles are reinforced by sets of basic, intermediate, and advanced exercises in each section.

and#160;In this new edition, Garner preserves the successful structure of the original while adjusting the content to make it even more classroom-friendly. He includes case examples from the past decade and addresses the widespread use of legal documents in electronic formats. His book remains the standard guide for producing the jargon-free language that clients demand and courts reward.

Book News Annotation:

Emphasizing the elements of plain English style, this concise guide helps law students and attorneys to simplify and improve their legal writing. Sample topics include omitting surplus words; putting modifying words close to what they modify; and avoiding sexist language. Each lesson concludes with some practice exercises, with suggested answers given at the back of the volume. Wydick is Emeritus Professor of Law at the U. of California, Davis.
Annotation 2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Book News Annotation:

Emphasizing the elements of plain English style, this concise guide helps law students and attorneys to simplify and improve their legal writing. Sample topics include omitting surplus words; putting modifying words close to what they modify; and avoiding sexist language. Each lesson concludes with some practice exercises, with suggested answers given at the back of the volume. Wydick is Emeritus Professor of Law at the U. of California, Davis. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

About the Author

Bryan A. Garner is president of LawProse, Inc., and Distinguished Research Professor of Law at Southern Methodist University. The editor-in-chief of Blackandrsquo;s Law Dictionary, Garner is the author of several best-selling books, including Garnerandrsquo;sModern American Usage and, with Justice Antonin Scalia, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts and Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges.

Table of Contents



Part One: Principles for All Legal Writing

1.and#160;Framing Your Thoughts

and#167; 1.and#160;Have something to sayand#8212;and think it through.

and#167; 2.and#160;For maximal efficiency, plan your writing projects. Try nonlinear outlining.

and#167; 3.and#160;Order your material in a logical sequence. Present facts chronologically. Keep related material together.

and#167; 4.and#160;Divide the document into sections, and sections into subparts as needed. Use informative headings.

2.and#160;Phrasing Your Sentences

and#167; 5.and#160;Omit needless words.

and#167; 6.and#160;Keep your average sentence length to about 20 words.

and#167; 7.and#160;Keep the subject, the verb, and the object togetherand#8212;toward the beginning of the sentence.

and#167; 8.and#160;Use parallel phrasing for parallel ideas.

and#167; 9.and#160;Prefer the active voice over the passive.

and#167; 10.and#160;Avoid multiple negatives.

and#167; 11.and#160;End sentences emphatically.

3.and#160;Choosing Your Words

and#167; 12.and#160;Learn to detest simplifiable jargon.

and#167; 13.and#160;Use strong, precise verbs. Minimize is, are, was, and were.

and#167; 14.and#160;Simplify wordy phrases. Watch out for of.

and#167; 15.and#160;Turn -ion words into verbs when you can.

and#167; 16.and#160;Avoid doublets and triplets.

and#167; 17.and#160;Refer to people and companies by name. Never use corresponding terms ending in -ee and -or.

and#167; 18.and#160;Donand#8217;t habitually use parenthetical shorthand names. Use them only when you really need them.

and#167; 19.and#160;Shun newfangled acronyms.

and#167; 20.and#160;Make everything you write speakable.

Part Two: Principles Mainly for Analytical and Persuasive Writing

and#167; 21.and#160;Plan all three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the end.

and#167; 22.and#160;Use the and#8220;deep issueand#8221; to spill the beans on the first page.

and#167; 23.and#160;Summarize. Donand#8217;t overparticularize.

and#167; 24.and#160;Introduce each paragraph with a topic sentence.

and#167; 25.and#160;Bridge between paragraphs.

and#167; 26.and#160;Vary the length of your paragraphs, but generally keep them short.

and#167; 27.and#160;Provide signposts along the way.

and#167; 28.and#160;Unclutter the text by moving citations into footnotes.

and#167; 29.and#160;Weave quotations deftly into your narrative.

and#167; 30.and#160;Be forthright in dealing with counterarguments.

Part Three: Principles Mainly for Legal Drafting

and#167; 31.and#160;Draft for an ordinary reader, not for a mythical judge who might someday review the document.

and#167; 32.and#160;Organize provisions in order of descending importance.

and#167; 33.and#160;Minimize definitions and cross references. If you have more than just a few definitions, put them in a schedule at the endand#8212;not at the beginning.

and#167; 34.and#160;Break down enumerations into parallel provisions. Put every list of subparts at the end of the sentenceand#8212;never at the beginning or in the middle.

and#167; 35.and#160;Delete every shall.

and#167; 36.and#160;Donand#8217;t use provisos.

and#167; 37.and#160;Replace and/or wherever it appears.

and#167; 38.and#160;Prefer the singular over the plural.

and#167; 39.and#160;Prefer numerals, not words, to denote amounts. Avoid word-numeral doublets.

and#167; 40.and#160;If you donand#8217;t understand a form provisionand#8212;or donand#8217;t understand why it should be included in your documentand#8212;try diligently to gain that understanding. If you still canand#8217;t understand it, cut it.

Part Four: Principles of Document Design

and#167; 41.and#160;Use a readable typeface.

and#167; 42.and#160;Create ample white spaceand#8212;and use it meaningfully.

and#167; 43.and#160;Highlight ideas with attention-getters such as bullets.

and#167; 44.and#160;Donand#8217;t use all capitals, and avoid initial capitals.

and#167; 45.and#160;For a long document, make a table of contents.

Part Five: Methods for Continued Improvement

and#167; 46.and#160;Embrace constructive criticism.

and#167; 47.and#160;Edit yourself systematically.

and#167; 48.and#160;Learn how to find reliable answers to questions of grammar and usage.

and#167; 49.and#160;Habitually gauge your own readerly likes and dislikes, as well as those of other readers.

and#167; 50.and#160;Remember that good writing makes the readerand#8217;s job easy; bad writing makes it hard.

Appendix A How to Punctuate

Appendix B Four Model Documents

1. Research Memorandum

2. Motion

3. Appellate Brief

4. Contract

Key to Basic Exercises


Product Details

A Text with Exercises
Wydick, Richard C.
Garner, Bryan A.
University Of Chicago Press
Edition Description:
Second Edition
Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing
Publication Date:
69 line drawings, 8 tables
9.25 x 6.5 x 0.8 in

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Business » Business Law
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Plain English for Lawyers New Trade Paper
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