On the Papers: A New Approach to Legal Writing

Vol. 37 No. 4

The author is a professor of the practice of rhetoric at Duke University.

Our school systems have taught writing inefficiently and ineffectively throughout our history. Educators have not understood well how the communication process takes place. As a result, they have resigned themselves to treating the symptoms of bad writing as if those manifestations were instead the causes.

They have labored mightily to eradicate those symptoms in their students—believing, as it were, that if one never again coughed or sneezed, one would never have a cold. They have bought into a litany of advice about good writing, so long and widely accepted as to be considered unquestionable. Here are some of the major pieces of that advice, each followed by my opinion of its accuracy and helpfulness:


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