Friday, June 21, 2013

Will Bryan Garner take the bait?

United States District Court Judge Richard Kopf recently posted on his blog a list of ten legal writing hints for lawyers to use when appearing before him. Hint number 9 caught my eye. It says,
Burn anything that Bryan Garner has written.  He really knows his stuff, but Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style said it all.  Besides, Garner, Scalia, and Posner pissed me off when they got into a juvenile cat fight over a book about rules.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but I am the only one who is permitted to act like a spoiled brat.
We covered the spat Judge Kopf mentions to the point it grew tiresome (see here, here, here, here, here, and here).

Now that a trial court judge has entered the fray will Mr. Garner respond? As the fracas with Judge Posner and Mr. Garner's picking a fight with a newspaper over its coverage of an event he spoke at, Mr. Garner is not one to back down when he is unhappy about something. How will he respond to the suggestion that his books be burned? Time will tell.

But what of Judge Kopf's other point? Did Strunk and White really say it all? The copy I have is only 85 pages long if you take out the glossary, forward, afterward, introduction, and index. My copy is a fourth edition and says that it includes revisions. So, I guess Strunk and White did not say it all the first time. Or maybe the universe of "all" changed between the first and fourth editions.

In any event, take a look at Judge Kopf's hints. I suspect that other judges would agree with several of them. It would be nice if more lawyers took number 5 to heart.


  1. As long as we're talking about Bryan Garner and Strunk & White, here's Garner's response to the backlash against S&W.

    Judge Kopf is very funny, so it's hard to tell if there's any seriousness at all in Rule 5. But to the extent he thinks Garner, Scalia, and Posner got into a catfight "about rules," he's wrong. The incendiary accusations in Posner's hatchet job on the Garner & Scalia book were that they had misrepresented cases to support their arguments. These accusations turned out to be flimsy at best, and had to be responded to.


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