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Great Legal Writing: Lessons from Literature

ISBN13: 9781787429499
Published: February 2023
Publisher: Globe Law and Business
Country of Publication: UK
Format: Hardback
Price: £75.00

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Legal prose is often a more pedestrian venture than a novel or a poem. However, even the pedestrian can be done well. The views of the professional writers considered in this book identify how lawyers can write legal prose well, and sometimes even beautifully.

This book provides key lessons on legal writing that can be gleaned from various leading authors of the past and brought to bear in crafting more polished legal texts. Among the great authors considered are Joseph Conrad, Guy de Maupassant, E.M. Forster, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, D.H. Lawrence, Robert Louis Stevenson and Virginia Woolf. Central themes identified are:

  • Legal writing should never be too difficult to understand
  • Great writers have much to teach the legal writer
  • Good writing requires hard work
  • Professional jargon is generally best avoided, and
  • The truth is always pure, often simple, and generally best expressed in plain English

    This book contains invaluable guidance to help all those involved in legal writing to hone their writing skills, while providing an engaging tour through the works of great authors from the past.

    All after-tax author royalties from this book will be donated to the Ukrainian relief efforts of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement

Legal Skills and Method
1. Lawrence - On morality, aesthetics and other matters
1. Reading the whole text
2. Didacticism and aesthetic
3. Moralising
4. Intrusion of author
5. Intelligence, coherency and honesty
Some propositions
2. Besant - On the ‘laws’ of fiction and other matters
1. Simple and faithful rendition
2. Sympathy and writing
3. Suppression and reticence
4. Elevation of thought
5. The ‘laws’ of fiction
Some propositions
3. Conrad - On bringing light to truth, and other matters
1. Bringing light to truth
2. The thinker, scientist and artist
3. Law and the emotional/moral atmosphere
4. Pursuit of truth
Some propositions
4. Crawford - On moralising, flippancy and other matters
1. Definition of novel
2. Purpose of novel
3. Impact of novel
4. Moralising works
5. The flippant and colloquial
6. Self-discipline
7. Brevity, simplicity, etc.
8. Producing the illusion of real life
9. Realising author’s conception
10. Foreign language
11. Avoidance of digression
12. Life experience
13. Writing for amusement
14. Ethics
15. Sympathy
Some propositions
5. De Maupassant - On honesty, simplicity and other matters
1. Individual originality
2. Expected forms
3. Text and truth
4. Objectivity
5. Exactness and carefulness
6. Simple vocabulary
Some propositions
6. De Quincey - On style and other matters
1. ‘Style’ defined and the English experience
2. Why style is important
3. Writing and speech
4. Careless style
5. Media and language
6. Unduly long or conditional sentences
7. Foreign language
8. Mechanical and organic dimensions of style
9. Punctuation
10. Footnotes
11. Repetition and brevity
Some propositions
7. Forster - On the text as story, and other matters
1. Text as story
2. Engaging the reader
3. Text and voice
4. Impartiality and omniscience
5. Mystery and suspense
6. Concluding section
7. Preachers and prophets
8. Patterns in prose
Some propositions
8. Hardy - On Sincerity, Originality and Other Matters
1. Sincerity
2. Originality
3. Detachment
4. ‘Laws’ of writing
5. Slipshod writing
Some propositions
9. The Hawthornes - On theme, tone, truth, the task of writing and other matters
1. Plainness and simplicity
2. Tone
3. Moral aim
4. Writing not a formulaic process
5. The steps to writing
6. Art and imagination
7. The power of writing
8. Transcendent text
9. The active and passive writer
10. Great cases and great texts
11. Legal texts as national literature
12. Sensibility and enlivenment
13. Condescension and children
14. Writing makes the writer
Some propositions
10. Hazlitt - On pedantry, insight, jargon and other matters
1. Pedantry
2. Insights offered
by written text
3. Jargon
4. Foreign language
Some propositions
11. James - On the art and duty of writing, humour and other matters
1. Art and fiction
2. Task of writer
3. To amuse or instruct?
4. Super-abundant judgments
5. Role of novel
6. Definition of novel
7. Reality as virtue
8. Types of novel/prose
9. Artistic freedom
Some propositions
12. Stevenson - On composition, pattern, sound and other matters
1. Word-choice
2. Composition
3. Style
4. Key elements of style
5. Pattern
6. Sound in prose
7. What to include or omit
Some propositions
13. Trollope - On literary quality, truth and the ‘rules’ of writing
1. Literary quality
2. Truth and selection
3. ‘Rules’ for writing novels
Some propositions
14. Woolf - On quality in writing, ‘rules of writing’ and other matters
1. Writing has not improved
2. Lifelessness
3. Adequacy of form
4. Truth to mental conception
5. The ‘proper stuff’ of prose
6. Focus on essential detail
7. ‘Rules’ of writing
8. Long words and opening words
9. Essay-writing suggestions
10. Know how to write
11. Fuse learning and prose
12. Avoid scolding
13. Careless writing
14. Dull, dead, prolix text
15. Truth
16. Sobriety and seriousness
17. Ornament
18. Length
19. Enfolding the reader
Some propositions
Afterword: Towards a code of good legal writing
1. Active/contemplative/reserved author
2. Brevity, clarity, simplicity
3. Carefulness/carelessness
4. Central Idea/theme
5. Civility
6. Colloquialism/flippancy
7. Communication of thought
8. Concision
9. Condescension
10. Detachment
11. Didacticism
12. Digression
13. Emotion/empathy/sympathy
14. Engaging writing
15. Ethics
16. Exactness/precision
17. Experience
18. Footnotes
19. Form
20. Grammar
21. Humour/amusement
22. Hesitancy
23. Illusion
24. Language/vocabulary
25. Latin/legal jargon
26. Literary quality
27. Moralising/morality
28. Observation
29. Originality
30. Personality
32. Reading
33. Rhythm
34. Selection
35. Sound
36. Storytelling
37. Style
38. Tone
39. Transcendence
40. Truth
41. Understatement
42. Voice

Appendix: Writing for the young and vulnerable