Book Review: Guthrie’s Guide to Better Legal Writing

A number of occasions every month, we’re happy to republish a current e book overview from the Canadian Legislation Library Assessment (CLLR). CLLR is the official journal of the Canadian Affiliation of Legislation Libraries (CALL/ACBD), and its critiques cowl each practice-oriented and educational publications associated to the legislation.

Guthrie’s Guide to Better Legal Writing. By Neil Guthrie. Toronto: Irwin Legislation, 2018. xviii, 182p. Consists of bibliographic references and index. ISBN 978-1-55221-472-5 (softcover) $55.00. ISBN 978-1-55221-473-2 (PDF) $55.00.

Reviewed by Nicholas Jobidon
Professeur de droit public
École nationale d’administration publique
In CLLR 43:3

Neil Guthrie’s Guide to Better Legal Writing began out as a sequence of emailed writing suggestions to the creator’s previous colleagues. These emails have been finally transposed into an recommendation column at earlier than being grouped collectively in e book kind. These early emails themselves started, because the creator places it within the preface, “out of frustration” on the intentionally incomprehensible jargon-filled type of writing typically favoured by legal professionals. As an alternative, the creator advocates using a less complicated, extra direct (and typically extra conventional) language.

The e book is principally involved with authorized writing for a broader viewers, comparable to writing weblog posts, but additionally periodically touches on authorized drafting. The e book affords recommendation divided in 4 sections:

  • Get Writing! This part covers common writing recommendation on how to write for a lay viewers, why writing is essential, phrase alternative, structure, and the significance and prevalence of social media.
  • Phrases Used and Abused. This part accommodates particular recommendation on some phrases which might be typically misused, that shouldn’t be used in any respect, or that usually give rise to confusion. It additionally contains the aptly titled part “Miscellaneous little issues that annoy me” (p 94).
  • Grammar and Punctuation. This part delves into the main points of adverbs, apostrophes, phrase endings, and lots of extra.
  • Your Queries Answered. For the reason that e book was as soon as a sequence of emails and of weblog posts, the creator obtained varied questions. The correlative solutions are printed right here.

Total, the e book is paying homage to grammar books; an apt various title may have been Guthrie’s Parts of Legal Model. One typically seems like a pupil when confronted with pages-long tables of similar-sounding phrases that the creator doesn’t like or cringes when he sees misused. The majority of the e book offers with specific guidelines and exceptions, and lots of makes an attempt at figuring out appropriate utilization in Canada between American and British traditions (the creator confesses to a British bias). This quantity of element typically makes it troublesome to take note the extra elementary message about clear, easy writing.

The tone of the e book intentionally clashes with its arid material and meshes as a substitute with its origin. It’s surprisingly casual, as befits a sequence of emails or weblog posts, which permits the creator to go on light-hearted (however pernickety) rants about some widespread misuse or unhealthy lawyerly behavior with out antagonising the reader. Its conversational tone makes this e book entertaining, and the reader could hope for an opportunity to take the creator out for a beer. It is a excessive bar for a grammar e book!

I’d advocate the e book to anybody actively attempting to clean up their prose, in addition to these invested in writing weblog posts or different outreach. Legal professionals who’re simply beginning out within the occupation will surely do effectively to heed Guthrie’s recommendation, however strain from our conservative line of enterprise would in all probability make that troublesome. This is the reason the preliminary title of the e book, Please Don’t Write Like a Lawyer, didn’t make the reduce!


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