Saturday, October 17, 2009
Posted by Jeff Lipshaw
I had to re-read some of my early law review articles (well, relatively speaking, since I only started writing them in 2005). They reminded me of some valid but painful criticism I got from an anonymous blind reviewer of a work that has since been humanely euthanized: long block quotes are bad practice. Paraphrase to the extent you can. Put the thought into your own words. Show that you have actually engaged with the concept. Don't let your flow be interrupted by somebody else's rhetorical style.
In my defense, I think this came from long experience as a brief writer in litigation practice. It's probably more persuasive to a judge that you quote what the other court said, rather than merely paraphrasing with a cite. Indeed, more often than not, such paraphrases and string cites were deceptive, and one stock in trade of a bright young lawyer was the ability to demonstrate in response or reply briefs just how deceptive they were.
If, however, you are moving from the world of brief writing to the world of article writing, consider that the audience may not be the same, and adapt your style.