Author Archives: Bryan A. Garner

LawProse Lesson #221: The fallacy of intelligibility.

The fallacy of intelligibility. Several readers wrote about last week’s lesson to say that it matters not one whit whether you “cite a case” or “cite to a case.” They said: “Everybody knows what it means.” That’s an interesting line … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

LawProse Lesson #220: Is the verb “cite” transitive or intransitive?

Is the verb “cite” transitive or intransitive? For most of its history, the verb cite (dating from the 15th century) has been a transitive verb; that is, it takes a direct object. For example, a lawyer cites a case or … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

LawProse Lesson #219: Are “certworthy” and “enbancworthy” bona fide words?

Are “certworthy” and “enbancworthy” bona fide words? Yes. According to the 10th edition of Black’s Law Dictionary, certworthy dates from 1965 and means “(of a case or issue) deserving of review by writ of certiorari.” It was first recorded in the 7th … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

LawProse Lesson #218: How much argle-bargle is required for jiggery-pokery?

How much argle-bargle is required for jiggery-pokery? In the last few Supreme Court terms, Justice Antonin Scalia has used some memorable British colloquialisms—especially argle-bargle and jiggery-pokery. Argle-bargle is a chiefly British phrase that has taken on the meaning “copious but meaningless talk … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

LawProse Lesson #217: When do you capitalize “federal” and state”?

When do you capitalize federal and state? What about congressional and constitutional?      These words have been worked hard over the past week. Maybe they’ve earned capitals on that basis alone. But let’s see what the best typographic practice calls for—keeping … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

LawProse Lesson #216: Embracing constructive criticism.

Embrace constructive criticism.      Undeveloped writers feel instinctively that if someone else criticizes their writing, it’s a personal affront. But more experienced writers know that if you insulate yourself from criticism, you’ll find it difficult to improve. Every document … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

LawProse Lesson #215: How do you decide which Latin phrases to italicize?

How do you decide which Latin phrases to italicize and which ones to keep in roman type? The answer depends on how thoroughly naturalized the word, abbreviation, or phrase has become in English. If the term has become so commonplace … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

LawProse Lesson #214: Lawyers’ biggest failing as writers.

Lawyers’ biggest failing as writers. What’s the most pervasive flaw among legal writers? It’s the tendency to begin writing before fully understanding the message to be conveyed. Lawyers often don’t think through what they want to say until they’re already … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

LawProse Lesson #213: Caselaw: one word or two?

Caselaw: one word or two? Two-syllable noun phrases often begin as separates, then become hyphenated, and then become solidified. Take, for example, the word today. It started as two words {to day}. In the 19th century it was commonly hyphenated {to-day}. … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

LawProse Lesson #212: Be the voice of reason.

Does a snarky tone win in motion practice? Among the most common remarks that judges make about advocacy is how extremely distasteful they find digs, jabs, put-downs, and negative characterization of opposing counsel and opposing clients. Yet litigators everywhere seem … Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment