How to Become a Smarter Writer by Solving Word Puzzles

Since the publication of David Mellinkoff’s The Language of the Law in 1963, virtually all of the studies on legal writing have reached the same conclusion: Most judges are exasperated by the tiresome process of slogging through deeply piled legal jargon. InSo it is not surprising that in most cases, they rule in favor of lawyers who have learned how to state their arguments in plain English.

Presenting ideas in concise, well-organized sentences and paragraphs is not a lazy, simplistic formula for dumbing down the language. Bryan Garner, long-time editor of Black’s Law Dictionary, has pointed out that plain language is simply “the idiomatic and grammatical use of language that most effectively presents ideas to the reader.” What’s dumb about that?

As far as the use of plain language in drafting government rules and regulations is concerned, the ABA has been urging “agencies to use plain language in writing regulations” since the 1990s. And the Office of the Federal Register prominently displays its support of “Clear Writing,” based on the principles articulated in the Plain Writing Act of 2010.

The problem that many lawyers run into has nothing to do with a command of legal parlance. The problem is poor writing. Period. According to surveys conducted since 2000 by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a complaint that comes up “over and over” … [is] the lack of writing skills among college graduates.”

A recent article in Legal Writing: The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute takes this complaint a step further, noting that “entering law students have become weaker and weaker in basic writing skills — grammar, punctuation, and syntax — over the past decade … [M]any members of the younger generation of legal writing professors are at a disadvantage in trying to teach these skills because they were not properly taught the skills when they were in primary school, secondary school, and college.”

In the free online How to Become a Smarter Writer class, we will focus on a series of techniques that skilled professional writers and editors in the American publishing industry rely on to communicate clearly with their readers. In the process, participants will learn how incorporate these techniques into their own writing. They will also learn how to treat sentences as word puzzles — and how to develop a strong, persuasive writing style by putting the pieces together.

Writing Programs for People Who Need to Communicate Clearly

Write Smart is currently offering a free 90-minute online class (10 to 60 participants) for organizations in the United States and Canada. For details about the free class – or for any of the other programs offered on the Write Smart website – please complete the information below:

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