Legal Writing Principles
13them near your desk and consult them everytime you have a question:•Bryan A. Garner,
ADictionary of Modern LegalUsage
(Oxford U. Press, 2d ed. 1995);•Bryan A. Garner,
The Redbook: AManual onLegal Style
(West Group 2002).
General Legal Writing Style Guides
Do read these books straight through; all ofthem are excellent guides to contemporary legalwriting style: how to phrase clear sentences,how to eliminate legalistic tone, and how toavoid common grammar and punctuationproblems:•Richard C. Wydick,
Plain English for Lawyers
(Carolina Academic Press, 4th ed. 1998);•Terri LeClercq,
Expert Legal Writing
(U. Tex.Press 1995);•Tom Goldstein & Jethro K. Lieberman,
TheLawyer’s Guide to Writing Well
(U. Cal. Press, 2ded. 2002).So please think of yourself as a professionalwriter, because you are one. Remember thatprofessional writers stay up on their craft. Andwhen professional writers have a questionabout punctuation, or word usage, or writingstyle, they don’t guess. They look it up. Youshould, too.
PRINCIPLE NUMBER TWO: ADAPT TOYOUR AUDIENCE
I believe that the bestway to improve legal writing is to teach lawyersto focus more carefully on the audience: thosewho must read what we write. Too often welawyers churn out documents in a mindless,rote fashion, without thinking much about thepeople who will have to read them:•If we are writing a motion, we create a docu-ment that looks like a motion—or like all theother motions we’ve seen—and we do notmuch care whether it will be easy to read andunderstand;•If we are drafting a contract, we drag out aform and duplicate it, not stopping to considerif the details of this form are right for our trans-action; and•If we are writing a letter, we make sure itsounds lawyerly, whether we are writing to aclient, to opposing counsel, or to a supervisor.If you realize that you are one of the many whowrites legal documents in a robot-like, un-changing style, stop it. Think about your audi-ence and adapt. In legal writing, lawyers face a broad and diverse range of audiences that fallinto two general categories—primary and sec-ondary—and into several specific types.
Primary and Secondary Audiences
For every document you produce, there is aprimary audience and a secondary audience.The primary audience is the audience towhom the document is addressed. For letters,it’s the intended recipient. For a discovery doc-ument, it’s the opposing counsel. For a con-tract, it’s the other party or the other party’slawyer. The secondary audience is anyone elsewho might see the document. Typically, thesecondary audience is judge, jury, supervisor,colleague, or client. Keeping the different audi-ences in mind will help you focus your writingand strengthen it.
The Variety of Audiences
More important than the difference betweenthe secondary and primary audiences is thesheer number and variety of audiences that youmust consider when writing. Take litigationpractice, for example. Here are some typical lit-igation documents and the possible audiences:
DocumentPrimary AudienceSecondary Audience
ComplaintTrial judge andThe opposing party,opposing counsel.your supervisor, yourclient, and, if the casewere appealed, ap-pellate judges.