Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Lawyers and communication

A law blogger writes
An exchange I heard a few months ago -- I reproduce it from memory, so the account will not be precise, but I think I remembered the substance accurately:

[Talk had turned to effective legal writing; B is a smart soon-to-be-law-student.]

A. Another thing I learned about legal writing: Don't use exclamation points for rhetorical emphasis. And all-caps -- don't do that, either. Bold is also very bad. So is italics: It's OK to use it to highlight important terms in quotes, or terms that you're trying to distinguish from each other in your arguments, but don't use it as an exclamation point.

B. But what then are you supposed to use for rhetorical emphasis?

A. How about ... forceful arguments?

I'm a little stunned that law school students have to be taught this.

I can specifically recall this being covered in a freshman composition course taught by the Department of English, in a freshman course in technical writing taught by the College of Engineering (although they said no italics) and in a sophomore course in business communication taught by the Department of Management.

How do you get to law school without already knowing that basics of written communication?


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