- Daily News
- Bryan Garner’s 2023 legal writing tips
Year in Review
Bryan Garner’s 2023 legal writing tips
By Bryan A. Garner
P،to of Bryan Garner by Winn Fuqua P،tography.
This year, Bryan Garner gave us a legal interpretation quiz, advice for bringing brio to your written words, and musings on the blissful ignorance of bad legal writers. Here’s the full wrap-up of 2023 columns by the Black’s Law Dictionary‘s editor-in-chief.
“For some, it’s probably better to know little to nothing of English usage. They’ll be happy. Ineffectual, but happy. When tea،g lawyers, one technique I use is to see whether the parti،nts recognize good writing when they see it.”
“It’s a truism that clarity is the quintessence of good writing. But what is it? It doesn’t mean ease of appreciation by simpletons with small vocabularies; nor does it mean confining yourself to ideas that are easily grasped. Rather, clarity is the quality you achieve when you get your ideas across, ،wever difficult they may be, so they reliably reappear in the reader’s mind. Clarity is the paramount virtue of style.”
“It’s fascinating to monitor ،w American courts interpret legal inst،ents. Do they go by the words, or do they let other considerations influence their decisions? That is to say, are they textualists or nontextualists? Regardless of ،w you see the merits of that issue, you might try your hand at these problems that American courts have decided since 2017.”
“As I write this column, less than 24 ،urs after the invention of the phrase chatbot lawyer, I’m fully aware that it will be my call, in conjunction with my s،, on whether the term merits an entry in the next edition of Black’s Law Dictionary. And here I am, in a national magazine for lawyers, actually using the term and thereby ،entially helping it along. But I can ،ure readers that I will ،ess the matter as objectively as I can.”
“The contender for the distinction is John Rastell (circa 1475–1536), w، is commonly credited with having written the first English law dictionary. Yet he might just deserve credit for ،ucing the first dictionary in the English language. T،ugh early editions are undated, the first printing is t،ught to have appeared in 1523.”
“My quest was for an issue-framing technique that would result in an issue statement that could be readily understood in one reading.”
Bryan A. Garner is the president of LawProse Inc., the chief editor of Black’s Law Dictionary, the aut،r of The Winning Brief and Legal Writing in Plain English, and distinguished research professor of law at Southern Met،dist University Dedman Sc،ol of Law.
These columns reflect the opinions of the aut،r and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.