Although some lawyers and judges will always care more about policy arguments, nobody can safely ignore grappling with textual arguments.
Apr 1, 2019 1:15 AM CDT
Among language lovers, Johnson O’Connor is best known for his work in understanding how vocabulary augmentation is a major key in unlocking human potential. O’Connor used these words in the 1940s to test American adults, some college-educated and some not.
Mar 1, 2019 1:15 AM CST
Seeking to bring the scientific method to bear on readability, Rudolph Flesch advocated a simple and direct style of writing: short paragraphs, short sentences, few prefixes and suffixes, and relative informality. He developed two measures for assessing readability: (1) reading ease and (2) human interest.
Jan 1, 2019 2:15 AM CST
Some contractual provisions, perpetuated in deal after deal, make no literal sense. The problems are threefold: (1) whenever such a document is retyped, clerical errors are likely to occur; (2) the sameness of the party designations leads to cognitive difficulties for all readers—including the drafters themselves—because the only visual difference is the two-character suffix at the end; and (3) clients tend to resent such documents not just for their unreadability, but also for their appearing to be forms that the lawyer took little care in adapting.
Dec 1, 2018 1:55 AM CST
Bryan Garner: “What I’d like to explore in this column is the curiosity of ‘busts’–the prevalence of contractual provisions, sometimes perpetuated in deal after deal, that make no literal sense at all.” Photo by Winn Fuqua Photography
In each question that follows, one choice is a misusage that wouldn’t pass muster with a good copy editor. See whether you can recognize the traditionally correct forms.
Nov 1, 2018 1:30 AM CDT
Bryan Garner: As a matter of linguistic epidemiology, if a malapropism becomes common enough, it becomes a nonstandard usage.” Photo by Winn Fuqua Photography
Over time, words can change in spelling, meaning and pronunciation. In this quiz, choose the pronunciation favored in the late 19th century through the 20th.
Oct 1, 2018 1:25 AM CDT
The novelist’s posthumous 1920 essay collection, Learning to Write, inspires an interrogatory with the ABA Journal’s legal writing advocate.
Sep 1, 2018 2:00 AM CDT
There’s a widespread problem in the way junior lawyers answer questions by email. They tend to respond to moderately complex legal questions merely with answers—without explicitly repeating the question.
Aug 1, 2018 2:20 AM CDT
Bryan Garner: “A question that every legal writer should ask is: ‘When will clarity come?’” Photograph by Winn Fuqua Photography.
Does the usual meaning of a word carry over to a legal definition? The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on this question in a case involving sports hero Jim Thorpe.
Jul 1, 2018 1:25 AM CDT
Lawyers are constantly creating definitions, seemingly to a greater extent as time goes by. These definitions appear mostly in transactional practice (contracts, wills, etc.) but also in legislative and regulatory work (statutes and rules)—and even in briefs.
Jun 1, 2018 1:25 AM CDT
Bryan Garner: “Lawyers are constantly creating definitions, seemingly to a greater extent as time goes by.” Photograph by Winn Fuqua Photography.
Book research shouldn’t be superseded by online research. Yet university libraries are unloading millions of unread volumes.
May 1, 2018 1:20 AM CDT
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.
Apr 1, 2018 2:05 AM CDT
A look back at the nonsensical pronouncements from Sir Robert Megarry’s character William St. Julien Arabin, the all-time champion of judicial illogic.
Mar 1, 2018 2:05 AM CST
“Eloquence is the art or talent by which the discourse is adapted to its end. All the ends of speaking are reducible to four: every speech being intended to enlighten the understanding, to please the imagination, to move the passions, or to influence the will.”
Feb 1, 2018 1:50 AM CST
Illustration by Sam Ward
“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.
Jan 1, 2018 3:00 AM CST