Reading about writing

People are constantly asking me, “Hey Dave, what are some good books on writing, because you are a goddamn genius and know everything,” or something like that.  Sometimes the question starts with “Hey asshole.” 

I’m no expert, but I know enough to know the difference between good writing and great writing.[1]  When I read something that is great, I think, “I want to write like that.”  So I work on writing by reading about writing (and actually writing).  Whenever I run across a book on the subject I usually pick it up.  I subscribe to several blogs about writing—not just legal writing—on my RSS feed.[2]  If there is a lawyer who writes particularly well, I find a way to get a copy of one of his or her briefs.

These are the books on writing I own and I recommend all of them.  Some, if not most of them, have been mentioned before, but never in one place.

 And these are the writing blogs I subscribe to on my RSS.

Of course reading any or all of these books/blogs will not turn you into a virtuoso.  But I’ve seen writing that has dramatically improved after reading Making Your Case alone.  If you don’t have time to read all of them or don’t know where to start, read these three: 

  1. Making Your Case (book)
  2. Elements of Style (book)
  3. The Appellate Record (blog)

You can get through both books in a weekend.  One is very short and the other is very readable.  The blog can be read at your leisure.

Finally, have someone proofreading your writing.  There have been plenty of times that I thought my writing was clear, only to find out that my proofreader didn’t understand.  If my proofreader didn't understand, it means one of two things:  I wasn’t as clear as I thought or the reader is a dumbshit.  Usually it’s my fault, not the reader’s.

[1] Anyone can recognize bad writing from good or great writing.

[2] With the kindle, I figured out that you can convert most of the posts to PDFs, then email the PDFs to your kindle, which is really cool.

[3] Recommended by Crime & Federalism.


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