BriefCatch Blog

Writing Tips & Legal Writing Articles


Adverbs on Trial: Guilty, Innocent, or It Depends?

By Ross Guberman / May 13, 2021 /

Several years ago, a Wall Street Journal legal columnist put adverbs on trial. Witnesses for the prosecution: Stephen King (“The adverb is not your friend,” says he), a host of anti-adverb judges, and legions of legal writing teachers. Witnesses for the defense: famed adverb fan Justice Scalia, an academic “legal anthropologist,” and the author of…

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Preliminary Statements and Introductions: Checklists and Models

By Ross Guberman / May 4, 2021 /

Craft a concise, effective, and persuasive introduction in little time by looking at your dispute through these four lenses: The Narrative Lens. Begin with a paragraph or two that covers what many attorneys never explain at all: who the parties are; when, where, and how the dispute arose; what question the dispute is over and…

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Five Grammar Myths Debunked

By Ross Guberman / April 9, 2021 /

For scams and urban legends, check But what if grammar myths are getting you down? If you’re afraid to start a sentence with “but” or “because” or would rather get a root canal than split an infinitive, help is on the way. Myth One: You can’t start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction like and, yet, or but.…

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Textualism Whiplash: Two Supreme Studies

By Ross Guberman / April 1, 2021 /

“We are all textualists now,” said Justice Kagan at a speech honoring Justice Scalia. The Justices all agree on that much. But then what? In 2016, the Supreme Court had to decide whether “involving a minor” limited just the third type of crime below or the other two types as well. That case was Lockhart…

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Seven Ways to Write Like Justice Kagan

By Ross Guberman / March 30, 2021 /

In Justice Kagan’s debut opinion, she imagined a debtor buying an old junkyard car “for a song.” Now, a decade later, writing better than ever, she’s penned an opinion about a Ford Explorer. Leave it to Kagan to adorn this specific-jurisdiction matter with rhythm and punch, intellectual tension, and even a touch of pathos. Looking to…

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Machine Learning and Legal Tech: Three Cheers for Humans

By Ross Guberman / March 23, 2021 /

I shared two data-mined facts about briefs the other day. If you’re skittish about whether artificial intelligence threatens the lawyers of tomorrow, the reaction I got should reassure you. Here were the facts I shared: The term “Id.” appears half as often in the briefs of elite lawyers (according to published rankings) as it does…

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Hyphenate or Bust? A Truce on Phrasal Adjectives

By Ross Guberman / March 14, 2021 /

In the legal world, debates about hyphenating “summary judgment standard” or “publicly traded company” are as cordial and restrained as arguments over proper fonts, Oxford commas, and spacing after periods. Let me try to keep the peace with just these three points: When two or more words form a unit that comes before the noun…

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Writing Rules for Fun and Profit: The Agony and the Ecstasy

By Ross Guberman / February 24, 2021 /

Ever since I created an editing app, my usual workshop feats, like engaging bleary-eyed associates and racing to the last flight to O’Hare, seem like child’s play. I still relish the challenge, but if I give you a peek behind the glossy interface, you’ll see what I mean. Say you want to cut the adverb…

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Microsoft Word’s New Editor: Lawyer Beware?

By Ross Guberman / January 16, 2021 /

You’ve probably seen a spell checker turn “tortious interference” to “tortuous interference.” Ouch! But how does MS Word’s new Editor handle more-sophisticated editing suggestions in legal documents? We report below; you decide.

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Is the Impeachment Resolution’s Prose Unimpeachable?

By Ross Guberman / January 11, 2021 /

  Impeachment language is stuffy and overwrought, and the middling BriefCatch scores for the new Resolution reflect that:     But even if we can’t punch up the prose here, all hope isn’t lost. We could fix this verb-form error and punctuation glitch:     We could use American punctuation conventions, clarify sources, and reconsider…

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