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Tips on Legal Writing by an Appellate Court Judge

By March 9, 2004Uncategorized

I just finished reading The Legal Writer – 40 Rules for the Art of Legal Writing, by Judge Mark Painter. I highly recommend this book to anyone who cares about writing persuasively, but it should be required reading for all law students.

Judge Painter is currently an appellate judge in Ohio, but is apparently contemplating running for Mayor of Cincinnati.

Click on the link below for some examples from the book.

Rule 6 – No Parenthetical Numerals

Lawyers commonly write, “There are four (4) plaintiffs and six (6) defendants, all claiming ten thousand dollars ($10,000). But only three (3) of the four (4) plaintiffs are entitled to recover from one (1) defendant.” The reader automatically repeats the numbers. It is extremely hard to read and looks silly…

Rule 12 – No Talking Footnotes

If something is important to be in a footnote, it is important to be in the text. Footnotes detract from readibility. Encountering a footnote is like going downstairs to answer the door while making love—it detracts from the endeavor at hand…

Rule 21 – One Word is Usually Enough

If there is no difference between words, don’t use more than one. If something is “null,” we assume it is also “void.” If a debt is “due,” it is also “payable.”


P.S. If you appreciate these kinds of observations, you might want to read this as well.
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