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Legal Writing and Research

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Full-Text Articles in Law

Shot Selection, Patrick Barry Sep 2018

Shot Selection, Patrick Barry


One of the more common pieces of writing advice in our post-Hemingway world is to keep sentences short. Experts on legal writing are particularly fond of this Position — and for good reason. Few judges look at the sentences that appear in briefs, memos, statutes, and contracts and say, "You know what each of those could use? More words." Professor Noah Messing does a particularly good job making the case for short sentences. Brevity, he explains, "reduces the risk that your writing will confuse or irk readers," especially given that "empirical studies show that writing verbosely makes writers sound dumber, not ...

Paragraphing, Patrick Barry Aug 2018

Paragraphing, Patrick Barry


Consider treating the word paragraph as a verb. Think of it as something you can do well or poorly, with major consequences for your readers. Good paragraphers, for example, help readers. They make it easy to navigate and absorb information. They don’t flit around, hastily moving on to the next point before fully supporting their first. Nor do they get stuck for too long in one place. Instead, they give a lot of thought not just to the ideas but also to their arrangement—their shape, their balance, their pace.

What We Still Don't Know About What Persuades Judges – And Some Ways We Might Find Out, Edward R. Becker May 2018

What We Still Don't Know About What Persuades Judges – And Some Ways We Might Find Out, Edward R. Becker


Over 25 years ago, in his foreword to the first volume of Legal Writing, Chris Rideout nailed it: legal writing as actually practiced by lawyers and judges needs to improve, “[b]ut more fundamental inquiry into legal needed as well.” The intervening decades have seen many laudable efforts on the latter front, as our collective scholarly discipline, then in its infancy, has matured. But one particular question that Rideout identified remains largely unaddressed by our discipline, although recent developments suggest a welcome increase in attention to the topic. Specifically, Rideout explained that our field did not know as ...

Editing And Empathy, Patrick Barry May 2018

Editing And Empathy, Patrick Barry


Design begins with empathy.” I recently wrote that on the board during a class for students in the Child Welfare Appellate Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School. I thought it might help them write better briefs. I got the idea from Ilse Crawford, whose work as an interior designer can be seen all over the world—from airport lounges in Hong Kong, to fancy restaurants in London, to pear-shaped stools at IKEA. In Crawford’s view, “empathy is a cornerstone of design.”1 She thinks it is important to understand the spaces and products she creates from the ...