Appellate Advocacy Blog

Editor: Tessa L. Dysart
The University of Arizona
James E. Rogers College of Law

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A “Writer’s Toolbox” - Part I (A Practical Writing Library)

As lawyers, we work in words. In “The Simple Secrets for Writing a Killer Brief,” Daniel Karon encourages us to have a “writer’s toolbox.” In his article, Mr. Karon lists the books in his toolbox, which he describes as "a modest but functioning writing library."

While I also have a "modest but functioning writing library," I use more than books to help me write. Over the next several posts, I will explore different facets of my writer’s toolbox. I will describe my electronic writing bank, writing journal, and tech tools. 

Today, I focus on my writer's library.

I have shelves full of books on writing. Some of these books, if I’m honest, I never open. Others are well-worn with use.  Below are some of my favorite writing resources:

Handbook Aspen Handbook for Legal Writers - A Practical Reference by Deborah E. Bouchoux  [ISBN: 9781454889335]

This book does more than list grammar rules. It provides writing and proofreading tips specifically for legal writing. I like that it incorporates legal-citation rules for capitalization and abbreviations along with the grammar mechanics. The index is thorough and helps me quickly locate what I need in the text.



Plain English for LawyersPlain English for Lawyers by Richard C. Wydick & Amy E. Sloan [ISBN: 978-1-5310-0699-0]

This is my "Strunk and White" for legal writing. It is a simple, short, and straightforward guide to writing well. Read this book. Implement its suggestions. You will become a better writer.






The Bluebook - A Uniform System of Citation (20th Edition) compiled by the editors of the Columbia Law Review, the Harvard Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and the Yale Law Review [ISBN 978-0-692-40019-7]

My clerkship with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court taught me that judges care about citation. Judges are meticulous about citation in their writing and respect attorneys who are as well. 

I cut through the massive amount of rules in The Bluebook by using the "Quick Reference" section on the back cover, the Bluepages, and index. I tab pages for rules on cases, statutes, quotations, and abbreviations.


Bluebook Uncovered

The Bluebook Uncovered: A Practical Guide to Mastering Legal Citation by Dionne E. Anthon [ISBN: 9781634595377}

This book translates The Bluebook into understandable English. It helped me comprehend some of the more complicated, convoluted citation rules. When I have a citation question, I consult this book first.




A Practical Guide to Legal Writing and Legal Method by John C. Dernbach, Richard V. Singleton II, Catherine S. Wharton, Catherine J. Wasson, and Joan M. Ruhtenberg [ISBN: 9781454889359]

This book provides step-by-step instructions for every part of the brief-writing process. It is direct and easy to understand. Each chapter contains numerous examples. 




Just Briefs

Just Briefs by Laurel Currie Oates, Anne Enquist, and Connie Krontz [ISBN: 9781454805540]

This is a great resource on persuasion. It explains how to engage the court through effective advocacy. The critiquing checklists for each section of a brief are invaluable.





Merriam-Webster Smartphone App (available on itunes & google play)

My final go-to reference is an app. I use both the dictionary and thesaurus features. 





What's in your writer's library? 

Please share your favorite resources in the comments section. I would enjoy hearing and learning from you.

Appellate Advocacy, Appellate Practice, Books, Legal Profession, Legal Writing | Permalink


Guberman's Point Made, Strunk & White, Typography for Lawyers, Garner's The Winning Brief

Posted by: Joseph | Mar 12, 2019 12:43:30 PM

Thank you for sharing, Joseph! Excellent choices.

Posted by: Amanda | Mar 13, 2019 7:08:34 AM

Typography for Lawyers (Butterick); Dictionary of Modern American Usage (Garner); Fowler's Modern English Usage (3d Ed.); Woe Is I (O'Connor)

Posted by: Stan Neustadter | Mar 13, 2019 1:46:28 PM

I second Ross Guberman's Point Made. Would also recommend his other book, Point Taken, if one is writing as a judge or clerk.

Posted by: KLS | Mar 13, 2019 1:50:22 PM

Thank you, Stan, for your comment. I like Butterick's book too.

Posted by: Amanda | Mar 13, 2019 1:54:17 PM

KLS, I agree that "Point Made" is a wonderful book. I used it as the textbook for an advanced appellate advocacy course. Thank you for commenting.

Posted by: Amanda | Mar 13, 2019 1:55:01 PM

Noah Messing - "The Art of Advocacy"

Posted by: Laura | Mar 15, 2019 2:14:56 PM

Thank you for the suggestion, Laura!

Posted by: Amanda | Mar 17, 2019 12:08:34 PM

Thank you for the suggestion, Laura!

Posted by: Amanda | Mar 17, 2019 12:08:35 PM

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