By Wayne Schiess (162 pages, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018)
Legal Writing Nerd: Be One grew out of author Wayne Schiess's monthly column on legal writing. This book is a curated collection of his best columns in one practical guide. Though it can be a reference manual, readers can also enjoy Legal Writing Nerd like a novel. Schiess’s chapters on professionalism and plain language make great points in an accessible and friendly tone so they’re a joy to read again and again. Schiess is a legal writing professor at the University of Texas School of Law, and he was recognized by the Center for Plain Language in 2010. He’s also the author of four other books, including Plain Legal Writing: Do It and Writing for Litigation (co-authored with Kamela Bridges).
By Cheryl Stephens (152 pages, Lulu.com, 2009)
The author’s brand is Plain Language Wizardry™ and this book delivers the magic—while making it all seem natural. Rather than an opaque list of commands, Plain Language Legal Writing is a guide to clear and understandable writing filled with traditional and revised writing examples with instructions on how to achieve those results. Author Cheryl Stephens emphasizes the importance of writing as communication, which requires writers to know what message they want to deliver. The book is divided into four parts, each with a different focus: clarity and organization; issues with traditional legal writing; formatting and presentation options; and resources and references. Stephens is a plain language advocate, the co-founder of the Plain Language Association International, and a former practicing lawyer.
By Deborah E. Cupples and Margaret Temple-Smith (157 pages, West Academic Publishing, 2013)
Grammar, Punctuation, and Style: A Quick Guide for Lawyers and Other Writers is an accessible writing guide that is generally useful, but specifically designed for lawyers. Acknowledging that this book will be used as a reference -- rather than read straight through like a novel -- means the easy-to-use index is a key feature. The book includes exercises to test your understanding of the rules and includes answers with explanations. Authors Deborah E. Cupples and Margaret Temple-Smith are both professors at University of Florida, Levin College of Law.
By Stanley Fish (176 pages, Harper Collins, 2011)
One of the first sentences author Stanley Fish discusses in this book comes from the significant school-prayer case, Lee v. Weisman (1992). It’s a scathing line from Scalia’s dissent—it’s penetrating and memorable. Fish spends the rest of the book exploring and explaining how sentences like this are built and why they move us. It’s a strategic approach to writing focused on the smallest building blocks of meaning. Fish is a law professor at Florida International University, a New York Times best-selling author, and the author of more than 10 other books.
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Looking for Help Formatting Legal Documents?
- The Lawyer's Guide to Microsoft Word 2013 by Ben M. Schorr
- Formatting Legal Documents with Microsoft Word 2016 by Jan Berinstein, Ph.D.
- Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word by Jack Lyon
Becoming a great legal writer is an ongoing process. With more approaches, examples, and explanations, you’ll have more opportunities to find an approach that works for you. So try expanding your legal writing reference library to include some of these books. When you’re ready to take the next step, let WordRake help you tighten and tone your legal writing at the push of a button. WordRake uses complex, patented algorithms to find legalese, wordy phrases, redundancies, unnecessary modifiers, and more. Then it presents its suggestions to you in the familiar track-changes style. It can make any document clearer and shorter. Try WordRake free for seven days!
About the Author
Ivy B. Grey is the Chief Strategy & Growth Officer for WordRake. Prior to joining the team, she practiced bankruptcy law for ten years. In 2020, Ivy was recognized as an Influential Woman in Legal Tech by ILTA. She has also been recognized as a Fastcase 50 Honoree and included in the Women of Legal Tech list by the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center. Follow Ivy on Twitter @IvyBGrey or connect with her on LinkedIn.