Write Better Now

They didn’t tell us this in law school, but the University of Chicago Law School has a Manual of Legal Citation that is, in many ways, much simpler and therefore more useful to the practitioner than The Bluebook. It’s also free.

Bryan Garner, in The Elements of Legal Style, commends The Bluebook and the ALWD Citation Manual and notes that “allowing discretionary forms of citation, as [the Chicago manual] does would cause inconsistencies to proliferate: the librarian’s and cite-checker’s nightmare.” This is only a small concern to the practitioner whose goal is not law-review publication but persuasion.

Download the “Maroonbook” here. It will go great with your new copy of Typography for Lawyers.

5 responses to “Write Better Now”

  1. Ah, that so tantalizing shiver that accompanied her husky, whispered instruction that Allwood is her citation manual of choice.

    Dat any bettah?

  2. “Consistency,” as Emerson understood, “is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

    OK, he actually said “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Perhaps it isn’t altogether fair of me to eliminate the adjective and thereby suggest that Garner and those librarians and cite checkers for whom he’s concerned. But really, the librarians aren’t bothered by the slight room for variation the maroonbook allows, and the only cite checkers who’ll care are those at law reviews (or law firms) that demand adherence to the bluebook.

    When we write for courts, the best we can do is to emulate the stylesheet they use. (Ohio courts, for instance, have their own peculiar citation system, and while they don’t insist we use it, I and most of the folks I know choose to do so because the judges and their staff who review our work kind of like it if we do.)

  3. I was the first on my block with a copy of Typography for Lawyers. It is the most exhausting review of legal fonts that I have ever read. I have now been indoctrinated to excoriate anyone that writes a brief in Courier New.

    But it covers more than just fonts. Overall it is a decent book, and price is not too bad.

  4. I have always found the advice of Judge Avern Cohn (E.D. Michigan) to be particularly useful. His essay on effective advocacy (http://www.mied.uscourts.gov/judges/practices/Cohn/Cohnpdf/effadvo.PDF) includes such gems as:

    “The Oxford Legal Dictionary defines a brief as “a written argument presented to a court to assist it in reaching a decision.” It is not always clear to me that lawyers focus on the “assist” purpose of their writing.”

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