Thursday, July 30, 2015

Structure and focus

Bryan Garner's LawProse Lesson #214:

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 writing—and they therefore meander, backtrack, and even restart. Unless they spend a great deal of time rewriting and cutting, they end up submitting something verbose, rambling, repetitious, incohesive, and unpersuasive.

The mature writer first figures out the major propositions and then writes in support of them. The resulting product has both an overt structure and a strong focus.

This method of writing isn’t inborn; it’s learned. With some patience and humility, anyone can learn to do it.

Sometimes I use writing to explore ideas. That counts as "writing before fully understanding the message to be conveyed." Probably unfocused and unpersuasive. But sometimes that's okay.

Actually, for writing about the economy, I count is as a plus if ideas are presented for evaluation rather than crammed down your throat as the hard truth.

It's different for lawyers, I think. Oh, and there are some arguments I make, where I am as focused and convincing as possible. When I'm sure of something and when it's important.

But even the things we're sure of -- especially the things we're sure of -- occasionally need to be reconsidered, thought through again, seen in the light of a changed economy. A changing economy.

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