Thursday, October 3, 2013

Holmes on Brevity

Lawyers (and judges) have only just given up their yellow "legal" size pads of paper; no wonder we still write badly. Here is what Holmes said, courtesy of Dan Ernst on the Legal History Blog:
In the summer of 1980 Erwin Griswold remembered calling upon Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes some fifty years earlier. “As we went into his room he took a great big thick brief and threw it in the wastebasket,” Griswold recalled. Holmes said, “‘147 pages long, I don’t read ‘em when they’re that long and I don’t care who knows it either.' And then he said, ‘I don’t see why lawyers do the things they do. First they make the point and then they put it in black letters and then they repeat it and then they put it in italics and then they say it again and then they put it all capital letters.’ He said, ‘I don’t see why they write it the way the Germans do, with emphasis and reiteration. I don’t see why they don’t . . . suggest something and leave it to our imagination, like a questionable French novel.’”