Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Point Well Made

Ross Guberman’s Point Made is an excellent source for practitioners looking for easy ways to improve their writing.  While Point Made focuses on brief writing, Guberman’s 50 tips can be used in every type of writing, from demand letters to appellate briefs.  

In the book, Guberman offers pointers on organization, style, and sentence structure including: using dashes, semi-colons, and colons to emphasize; interspersing short, pithy sentences with longer ones to add interest (a tip I frequently employ); conceding bad facts to spin them in a way that makes them less harmful; and drafting parallel constructions to streamline information and comparisons.  Many of Guberman’s fabulous pointers can be employed by everyone from novice legal writers to seasoned brief drafters 

My favorite part of Point Made is Guberman’s “real-life” examples, something lacking from many legal writing books aimed at practitioners.  It is easy to give legal writing pointers; it’s harder to show legal writers how to use those pointers to draft impactful briefs.  Guberman does an excellent job of outlining his tips then showing the reader how the tips can be (and have been) used in real briefs. Guberman’s examples are from public and private lawyers; from a variety of cases; from plaintiffs and defendants, so there’s something for everyone in Point Made.

My only criticism is that a few of Guberman’s tips aren’t widely usable or, in my opinion, advisable.  For example, Guberman recommends that writers use rhetorical questions.  I’ve never personally been involved in a case where a party used a rhetorical question in a way that didn’t make the writer seem arrogant.  Admittedly, the examples Guberman offers are very effective.  But, the rhetorical question tip is one, in my opinion, that should only be used by advanced legal writers who can craft a rhetorical question that falls on the right side of the line between clever and pretentious.

Guberman also recommends interspersing “balanced, elegant” long sentences in legal writing to add literature-like richness.  Again, Guberman’s examples are fabulous; again, this tip isn’t widely applicable.  In fairness, Guberman himself admits the tip may be “too much” for some writers and suggests an alternative “freight-train” style that is more practical.   

Overall, Guberman’s book is an excellent source for practitioners looking for “quick and dirty” tips to improve their writing.  The book is easy to follow with a user-friendly format that will enable any lawyer to pick it up and, thirty minutes later, implement Guberman’s tips.  I highly recommend Point Made.        

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