- Series: Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing
- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 2 edition (August 26, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226283933
- ISBN-13: 978-0226283937
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Legal Writing in Plain English, Second Edition: A Text with Exercises (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing) 2nd Edition
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Amazon's rating system is, unfortunately, about how well I liked it, not how useful it might be to others. To be fair (which is why I gave it a 3 instead of a 2), I have an MA in English Rhetoric and have spent my life in the writing/publishing world, so it does not fit my needs. I'm new to the field of law and hoped it would teach me the required elements of various briefs/documents. Out of a 240 page book, about 50 pages is devoted to what I sought (Appendix B - Four Model Documents on drafting an Appellate Brief, Motion, Contract, and a Research Memo). Appendix A is "How to Punctuate" which, ostensibly, if you're over 30, you learned in school somewhere along the line.
The remainder of a book is simply an advanced writing course with examples drawn from legal documents. A typical example would be that you are given a convoluted sentence which you then have to break into smaller, more succinct and understandable sentences. The advanced form of that same exercise is a convoluted paragraph in which you have to figure out what is being said and rewrite it to make it more clear and coherent. Other exercises involve interviewing lawyers and judges to find out their preferences in what they like to read as far as legal documents are concerned. The book also assumes you have access to a law library and lots of time to research. One example is: "Find a judicial opinion that takes several paragraphs before getting to the point."
Be more diligent than I was -- take a look at the Table of Contents from the "Look Inside" link, and even download a sample of it to your Kindle before purchasing. Apparently I simply looked at the reviews.
That's the disclaimer. But I still loved the book. It's largely written as a how-to, gives you tips to improve your legal writing, and is a resource that I'll continue to reference throughout my career.
If you'd like a quick read (with accompanying exercises to test your skill) this is a great book to have. Then, when you become more interested, you can nab the Redbook, Legal Usage dictionaries, etc. In sum, it's a great place to start.
One objection, though: Garner's answers in the back often deal with only the Easy exercise, not all three (Easy, Intermediate, Hard). I realize that giving answers to all three would lengthen the book, but the easy one is exactly that--easy. I'd like to see his Heller brief, or any of the harder ones just to compare. But that's only a minor annoyance. Otherwise, it's a real asset if you're interested in improving your legal writing. And you should be.
In this book, Garner has amassed simple and straightforward way to improve legal in a humorous and easy-to-read book. Hardly any of the brief suggestions weren't helpful and his writing is so good that I would actually find myself continuing to digest them long after I intended to stop.
The fact this isn't a foundational text for every 1L entering law school is criminal.