Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Roy Peter Clark, of journalism’s Poynter Institute and its PoynterOnline blog, has recently (September 2006) published Writing Tools, a book of fifty essays on the essentials of better writing, many/most of which apply with equal force to legal writing. Poynter’s web site contains a blog devoted to these writing tools, periodically discussing each in greater detail. To get started, see Clark’s “quick list” of these tools; among them you’ll find memorable phrases that I think are destined to work their way into the lexicon of writing teachers everywhere.
A sampling follows:
· Be passive-aggressive.
Use passive verbs to showcase the "victim" of action.
· Let punctuation control pace and space.
Learn the rules, but realize you have more options than you think.
· Cut big, then small.
Prune the big limbs, then shake out the dead leaves.
· Get the name of the dog.
Dig for the concrete and specific, details that appeal to the senses.
· Climb up and down the ladder of abstraction.
Learn when to show, when to tell, and when to do both.
· Place gold coins along the path.
Reward the reader with high points, especially in the middle.