Thursday, March 24, 2011

Imagine an actual person reading what you write.

ScotusBlog interviews Ross Guberman, the author of Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates. Among the questions: What makes persuasive writing so hard? Guberman's response:
To succeed, you have to imagine a highly skeptical, highly impatient reader who will never care as much about your case or appeal as you do—and then ask yourself how you can somehow grab that reader’s attention and sustain it page after page.
I just don’t think that most advocates—legal or otherwise—imagine an actual person reading their work, let alone think about how to sway that person to their cause. That may be one of the reasons briefs used to be better when lawyers dictated them. Dictation is at least one step closer to actual communication.
You also have to channel whatever passion you feel into clarity and creativity, not into the anger and self-righteousness that drive so many motions and briefs.
Finally, the apparatus of brief-writing—the citations, record cites, defined terms, footnotes, and case discussions—can easily mask flaws in the prose and in the logic itself.

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