Legal Writing

194 ABA Journal articles on Legal Writing.

Inclusive legal writing: We can honor good grammar and societal change at the same time
To effect change, we can set an example through precision in our own word choices. When in doubt about the proper pronoun or title, choose the correct and inclusive one or respectfully ask.
Law review editors missed a few, so we have this usage skills quiz for you
Law review editors do their best to comply with prevailing literary usage. In this quiz, the language hasn’t yet come close to accepting the “incorrect” choices as standard written English.
Bryan Garner reflects on his friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia in ‘Nino and Me’ (podcast)
To Bryan Garner, editor-in-chief of Black’s Law Dictionary, Justice Antonin Scalia was a friend, a mentor, a collaborator and a fellow lover of words. In the wake of Scalia’s death on Feb. 13, 2016, Garner reflected back over their relationship, from their first brief introduction in 1988 to the trip they took to Asia together in the last weeks of Scalia’s life. Those reflections turned into his latest book, Nino and Me: My Unusual Friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia.
Kavanaugh lands in top six in ‘Scalia-ness’ ranking of SCOTUS contenders; who is No. 1?

Before Neil M. Gorsuch became a U.S. Supreme Court justice, a study of potential Supreme Court nominees had rated him as more “Scalia-like” than Chief Justice John G. Roberts…

Writing vs. Good Writing: Make the languorous doldrums of reading disappear
“All styles are good,” Voltaire said, “except that which bores.” The good writer, in other words, frets a little about piquing the reader’s interest sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph—never descending into unremittingly dull stretches. The French even have a word for those dull stretches: longueurs.
How to start a sentence
Many writers mistakenly think it’s the beginning: They begin a disproportionate number of sentences with the grammatical subject, and they rarely depart from the subject-verb-object pattern. Boring legal writers create paragraphs of sentence after sentence beginning with a client’s or litigant’s name; interesting writers, by contrast, spice their prose with syntactic variety.
Of lists and tabs: Transforming transactional drafts to make sense
What's the single most important sentence-level reform in transactional drafting? It’s a seemingly simple idea that would require massive retraining of lawyers. Here’s the proposition: With few exceptions, every list in a contract or other transactional instrument should be set off and indented (with a hanging indent, mind you).
Emojis Head to a Courthouse Near You
The terms emoji and emoticon—the keyboard-created forerunner of emojis—have cropped up in about 80 U.S. court opinions to date, with about half the case references within the last two years.
Eye for Errors: Test your skills at editorial triage
Take the Editor’s Quiz: Give these briefs a minimalist edit—confining yourself to outright errors. In each sentence that follows, find one or more glaring errors and one or more venial errors.
Merriam-Webster editor shares the ‘Secret Life of Dictionaries’ (podcast)
What do lawyers and lexicographers have in common? The main job of both is to determine the meaning of words.

In this episode of the Modern Law Library, the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles talks with Kory Stamper about her work as a lexicographer and editor for Merriam-Webster; her new book, Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries; and her position as chief defender of the word "irregardless."
Learn the fundamentals of writing first—experiment later

It’s often said that you must know the rules before you break them. But why is that, exactly?

How to write powerful closers

If, in persuasive writing, your opening words must arouse your reader’s attention, your closing words must somehow prompt your reader to act.

Law review author says she isn’t bothered by Gorsuch’s use of similar sentences in book
The author of a 1984 Indiana Law Journal article says she isn’t troubled by U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s use of sentences that closely track her own in his book on assisted suicide.
As most-cited songwriter, Bob Dylan brings complex poetry to court opinions
Bob Dylan is, by far, the most-cited songwriter or popular artist in American judicial opinions. And these citations are not merely add-ons or throwaways.
Make motions more powerful by writing openers that focus on ‘deep issues’
An effective opener involves stating the problem to be solved. After all, what is a motion? It’s a request to resolve a specific problem by entering a specific order.

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