Garner is editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary and Distinguished Research Professor of Law at Southern Methodist University Law School. He is the president of LawProse Inc. through which he has trained thousands of lawyers in the US on modern legal drafting. He is the author of “Dictionary of Legal Usage” and “Modern American Usage.” He co-wrote “Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges” and “Reading Law” with US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
In his book “Legal Writing in Plain English” published by the University of Chicago Press, Garner provides 50 guidelines with numerous exercises. Some of these guidelines (linked to my previous posts) are:
Omit needless words.
Keep your average sentence length to about 20 words.
Keep the subject, the verb, and the object together--toward the beginning of the sentence.
Prefer the active voice over the passive.
Use parallel phrasing for parallel ideas.
Avoid multiple negatives.
End sentences emphatically.
Learn to detest simplifiable jargon.
Use strong, precise verbs. Minimize is, are, was, and were.
Turn -ion words into verbs when you can.
Simplify wordy phrases. Watch out for of.
Avoid doublets and triplets.
Make everything you write speakable.
Introduce each paragraph with a topic sentence.
Bridge between paragraphs.
Vary the length of your paragraphs, but generally keep them short.
Draft for an ordinary reader, not for a mythical judge who might someday review the document.
Organize provisions in order of descending importance.
Minimize definitions. If you have more than just a few, put them in a schedule at the end--not at the beginning.
Break down enumerations into parallel provisions. Put every list of subparts at the end of the sentence--never at the beginning or in the middle.
Delete every shall.
Don’t use provisos.
Replace and/or wherever it appears.
Prefer the singular over the plural.
Prefer numerals, not words, to denote amounts. Avoid word-numeral doublets.
Learn how to find reliable answers to questions of grammar and usage.
Habitually gauge your own readerly likes and dislikes, as well as those of other readers.
Remember that good writing makes the reader’s job easy; bad writing makes it hard.
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