Thursday, March 15, 2012

Write Like John Roberts

A few weeks before the end of our law skills class last spring, our professor handed out an article about John Roberts' writing abilities when he was a litigator. The article gave examples of Roberts writings from several briefs showing how his writing is distinguished from other's. The article brought back a scathing criticism my law skills professor gave earlier in the year on a memo I wrote.

She sternly criticized me for using a hyphen in my memo. The tone in her comment felt like I had violated something sacrosanct in the realm of legal writing. One would have thought by the tenor in her message that I had done something flippant, such as using things like "omg" or "imho" or shit like that. It was a goddamned hyphen and there wasn't a damned thing wrong with it!

I read the Roberts article closely. I tried to absorb as much writing suggestions as possible. I know that I'm not like one of those liberal arts majors whose writing , they think, is the best thing to come down the pike since Learned Hand or Oliver Wendell Holmes. During the 3rd or so reading of the Roberts article, I noticed that in the 10 or so excerpts (each excerpt was about a paragraph long) the author provided us, there were 8 fucking hyphens in Roberts brief writing! Eight!

Oh god how I wanted to email my law skills professor a copy of that graded memo and the Roberts article and ask her how many hyphens she found in the Roberts excerpts. It would have been like an Easter egg hunt or "Where's Waldo." Had I been younger and more high-strung, I would have confronted her. Instead, I grit my teeth and a few months later bitched about it in on an anonymous blog.

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