Daily Archives: October 4, 2011

Highlighting new books at the Law Library, part 3

Part 3 of the new book series reviews a resource for students looking to improve their brief writing skills.

The Winning Brief: 100 Tips for Persuasive Briefing in Trial and Appellate Courts
By Bryan A. Garner
Law Study Skills Collection KF251 .G37 2004

The Winning Brief: 100 Tips for Persuasive Briefing in Trial and Appellate Courts by Bryan Garner emphasizes that the key to good brief writing is understanding judicial readership.  Garner provides 100 concise tips for effective writing, all with the judicial reader in mind.  The tips are organized into five sections: composing in an orderly and sensible way, conveying the big picture, marching forward through sound paragraphs, editing for uncluttered sentences, and choosing the best words.  Each tip begins with quotes from composition experts, and Garner provides excellent before-and-after examples that apply the tip.  Two appendixes illustrate appellate briefs written in what Garner refers to as an “orthodox” style (i.e. slow and verbose), and the same briefs rewritten in a “high-impact” style.

A recent real-world example of the importance of good brief writing appears in the ABA Journal, which details how the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ordered an Illinois lawyer to show cause as to why he should not be barred from practicing before the court, for briefs full of “gibberish.”  The 7th Circuit’s opinion states that lawyer Walter Maksym was “unable to file an intelligible complaint” despite that he was given three tries to do so, and that each version of the complaint was “generally incomprehensible and riddled with errors.”  The Court pointed out a 345-word sentence as illustration of its point (it seems that the “editing for uncluttered sentences” chapter of this book would be particularly useful for Maksym).