ABA Journal

Bryan Garner on Words

83 ABA Journal Bryan Garner on Words articles.

Word Game: ‘The denotations might be the same; the connotations are entirely different’

So many things can be characterized positively, rather neutrally and extremely negatively. For word-lovers, inventing examples of trifurcated terminology can be a great parlor game.

4 principles of legal writing Bryan Garner learned from clerking at the 5th Circuit

“Whenever I’m writing, I always try to keep the Reavley principles in mind. Even though Judge Reavley wasn’t much interested in grammar, he taught me more about legal writing than anybody else.”

How to verify proper spelling and understand that words change over time

A law office is a kind of publishing house. We issue legal documents to be read sometimes by small audiences, sometimes by large ones. Because we’re a literary profession, we want to get things right.

Grammar Rules: The case of the unhyphenated phrasal adjectives

Before this honorable court is the complaint of Marian Short-Dash, who accuses her local newspaper, the Blunderbuss Clarion, of omitting “obligatory hyphens” from phrasal adjectives, thereby impairing her ability to read without annoyance.

Bryan Garner shares brief-writing advice from the late Supreme Court Justice Wiley B. Rutledge

Readers of this column are familiar with my occasionally interviewing long-dead authors. Today’s interviewee is U.S. Supreme Court Justice Wiley B. Rutledge (1894–1949).

Bryan Garner’s 2021 legal writing tips

This year, Bryan Garner gave us tips for using legal dictionaries, a three-part series on how to manage a day’s worth of legal writing, and an ode to a state bar journal that’s championing the use of plain English.

How to effectively use legal dictionaries

Many dictionary users don’t realize the extent of the improvements that take place from edition to edition of a dictionary. Perhaps that’s especially true with Black’s Law Dictionary, which has been substantially remade over the past quarter-century.

Bryan Garner touts the Michigan Bar Journal’s celebration of plain English

The Michigan Bar Journal has just reached a landmark of 37 years in sustaining its monthly column on plain language in the law. Over the years, the column has exploded all the various myths about plain language in the law.

How to budget your day while moving through your motions

Let’s review the situation: You’re an experienced litigator, and it’s your first day of work as assistant attorney general in your state. You’ve just finished the first of three motions that are due today. You’ve written a one-page motion to consolidate two cases in the state supreme court.

How to craft your legal writing on the clock

Recall the situation: It’s the first day of your new job as an assistant attorney general in your state. You’re an experienced litigator, and you put in for the position touting your skill as a writer. You were told that it would be a demanding job, but you figured that your experience in private practice has been as demanding as anything the new position might present.

Your recipe for effective legal writing

If it were a baking competition, the judges would be interested in both style and substance. But these aren’t baker judges you’re attending to: They’re judicial officers. They’ll want to see how sound your arguments are, and they’ll be influenced somewhat by the presentation.

If you can give good directions, you can probably write a good brief

“Someone who can draw a good map can probably write a good brief; someone who can’t draw a good map will undoubtedly write a bad brief,” writes Bryan A. Garner, the president of LawProse Inc.

Polish your writing skills with Bryan Garner’s 2020 advice

As the editor-in-chief of Black’s Law Dictionary, Bryan A. Garner sees a lot of legal writing, both good and bad. Here is a collection of his columns from 2020.

There’s a formula for effectively explaining caselaw

Legal writers are constantly called on to explain things. Among the most difficult and predictably recurrent types of explanation is why a legal precedent bears on a point to be decided. Although every lawyer must be prepared to do this, it’s surprisingly tricky.

Do you use ‘good English’? Test your grammatical skills with this 20-question quiz

Let’s try a 20-question quiz. The object is to select the choice that writers, editors and book publishers have overwhelmingly used over the past several decades. We’re assessing your knack for standard written English. We’re testing your feel for plurals, possessives and subject-verb agreement. These are grammatical issues, not word-choice issues. See how you fare.

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