9 writing tips for lawyers that apply to us all

March 27, 2017 | Writing

Bryan Garner, editor of Black’s Law Dictionary, isn’t just a lawyer, he has written more than two dozen books about English usage and style. In addition to his books, Garner shares his teachings at his LawProse CLE seminars, one of which was attended by Leora Maccabee, a litigation associate at the Maslon law firm and an expert in the use of social media for legal professionals — and a Garner fan, so much so that she excised and compiled a list of writing tips from his seminar. You can read her full treatment by clicking here. Meanwhile, here is a synopsis of her compilation.

  1. You will never write as well as you read. Read the most the best written publications and take note of their technique.
  2. Be a lawyer who clarifies and not a lawyer who obfuscates. To be a credible writer, shed light on your subject matter, and avoid language that confuses.
  3. Learn how to write proper English. A dictionary, thesaurus and a writing usage book will get you there — if you use them.
  4. Challenge inadequate and inefficient legal writing dogmas like putting citations in the body of your writing. For non-lawyers, think in terms of using sidebars, breakout boxes, tables and charts where it makes sense. In other words, if information you want to include will disrupt your narrative and complicate your essay or article, put the information ont the side, or ditch it entirely if it’s non-essential.
  5. Don’t write it if you wouldn’t say it out loud. If you cannot smoothly read your writing aloud, revise and make it more conversational.
  6. Don’t bury your good content. Emphasize and amplify what is important in your writing.
  7. Write simply and clearly. Simplicity proves you understand your subject, and clarity is essential to making your point and having influence.
  8. Don’t stagnate your writing. Work on multiple writing projects at the same time, so you can jump from one idea or style of writing to another. It will keep your mind fresh and promote efficiency.
  9. Find yourself a writing mentor.