Friday, July 21, 2006
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Lawyers use rhetoric, and legal writing professors teach rhetoric, but many have not formally studied the history or theories of rhetoric. To the rescue is The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present (Patricia Bizzell & Bruce Herzberg, eds., 2d ed., Bedford/St. Martin's). Each chapter starts with detailed explanations and context for its time period, and then features sizeable excerpts from that time, some of which are household names and some more obscure. You will likely need a college bookstore or online source to find this book, as it's meant for college courses and scholarly reference. Although it is certainly an erudite book, it offers a veritable feast of ideas and examples.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
I don't know why the current focus on bad legal writing; must be the summer heat. Anyway, here's a thick sentence from the case of Commonwealth v. McLaughlin, 105 Mass. 460 (1870).
"INDICTMENT on the Gen. Sts. c. 161, § 80, [FNa1] and c. 168, § 8, [FNd1] averring that Thomas McLaughlin, John Flanagan, and Frank Mulvey, on November 4, 1869, at Lawrence, 'did attempt to commit an offence prohibited by law, to wit, did attempt with force and arms unlawfully, wilfully and maliciously to administer to a certain horse, of the value of four thousand dollars, of the property of John W. Porter and George E. Porter, a large quantity of a certain poison called croton oil, that being an offence prohibited by law, and in such attempt did then and there do a certain overt act towards the commission of said offence, to wit, did then and there with force and arms unlawfully, wilfully and maliciously fill and saturate a certain potato with a large quantity, to wit, sixty drops of said croton oil, a poison as aforesaid, and with the said potato so filled and saturated with the said croton oil as aforesaid in their possession, did then and there in the night-time of said day enter the stable of the said John W. Porter and George E. Porter there in said Lawrence situate, and did then and there in the night-time as aforesaid climb over and into the stall in said stable then and there occupied by said horse, with intent then and there to administer to said horse the said poison so prepared in said potato as aforesaid, by then and there giving to said horse the said potato so filled and saturated with said croton oil as aforesaid, to be then and there eaten by him the said horse, but said Flanagan, Mulvey and McLaughlin then and there did fail in the perpetration of said offence, and were intercepted and prevented in the execution of the same; against the peace of the Commonwealth,' &c."
hat tip: Professor Ursula Weigold, Cornell Law School
Monday, July 17, 2006
Sunday, July 16, 2006
A new variation on the "law and humor topic" : A New Jersey prosecutor who's also a stand-up comic.
How does this relate to legal writing, you may ask? Well, her observations on understanding audience and linguistic precision tie right in.
Consider this excerpt from a 1988 draft of the British National Minimum Wage Regulations:
"The hours of non-hours work worked by a worker in a pay reference period shall be the total of the number of hours spent by him during the pay reference period in carrying out the duties required of him under his contract to do non-hours work."
More gems like this one are available at http://www.plainenglish.co.uk, where you can sign up to receive a weekly newsletter on the perils of the English language and efforts to minimize them.
hat tip: Professor Bill Dunlap, Quinnipiac University