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Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Effective Writing Flows from Recognizing Your Own Mistakes in the Writing of Others

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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A bit of from Jonathan Todres at the NYU legal writing program via The Volokh Conspiracy: Editing Tip for Law Students.

When you’re editing someone else’s work — for instance, if you’re a student who’s required to edit a classmate’s paper, or a law review editor editing a faculty member’s work — ask yourself, “What have I learned about my own paper from editing this other paper?”

As with all attempts to see the flaws in one’s own work, this isn’t easy to do well. But it’s good to try. For instance, if you see some arguments that were meant to be rhetorically flowery but come across to the reader (you) as mere bloviation, ask yourself: Is there similar rhetoric in my article that I like but other readers may be turned off by? If the sarcasm in the article you’re reading comes across as stridency or excessive combativeness, ask yourself whether your work suffers from the same problem. If you’re seeing lots of redundancy or needless abstraction, look over your own work with an eye towards finding the same problems.

Good advice for those finishing up their appellate briefs for Legal Research & Writing. Effective listening is often the key to knowing what to say.

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