Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Brayan A. Garner, who has been the Editor-In-Chief of Black's Law Dictionary since 1991 and a best selling author of more than a dozen books has written the forthcoming book, Garner on Language and Writing (ABA 2008) which is available now from Amazon.com for $59.95. The book spans 839 pages and is a composed of a compilation of essays, including a foreword by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Garner's first essay sets the tone of the entire book. He notes that no one can teach the physical aspects of writing, but that it is "quite possible to teach the mental aspects of writing." He then goes on to discuss how to learn to write, the importance of efficiency and planning. What I found most interesting however, is Garner's recommendation to readers to find good models of writing to learn from. What are those models? On page 23, he points to briefs filed by the U.S. Solicitor General which are available online. Interestingly, he also recommends that students form writing groups so that they can learn from each other. He also explains that prose should be kept plainspoken and formulaci phrases should be avoided. Garner also empasizes something I always found important-the aesthetics of the page. Thus, the writers choice of font, space, capitalization and headings are important.
As this is a legal book, Garner also breaks down the necessary elements of brief writing and in framing legal questions. He also explains that excessive legalese can lead to confusion. What I found most interesting, however, is that he noted in the book on page 389 that Legal Writing Instructors are badly overworked and underpaid and he asks for "student activisim" to set things straight. In my view, Garner's advice "right on" and legal writing instructors should seriously consider adopting this book for class.
However, while this book offers a lot, it is simply too large. I suppose legal writing professors who choose to assign this book can pick and choose which chapters to assign. However, it would have been much more productive if this book were divided into two, possibly three editions.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein