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15 J. Pub. L. 214 (1966)
Style in Judicial Writing

handle is hein.journals/emlj15 and id is 218 raw text is: STYLE IN JUDICIAL WRITING*
Griffin B. Bellt
IN THE COMMON-LAW COUNTRIES, the courts play a fundamental role in
applying and developing the law. This function is served largely by com-
munication through written opinions. As a result, style in judicial writing
is an important factor in the growth of the law. The style of an opinion may
affect the manner in which it is interpreted by the reader. It may also govern
the frequency with which the opinion will be cited in other cases and thus
determine the influence the opinion will ultimately have. Style must be
regarded as one of the principal tools of the judiciary and it thus deserves
detailed attention and repeated emphasis.
Any study of style in judicial writing must begin with an examination of
style in writing generally, and a good point of embarkation is definition.
The word style comes from the Latin word stylus, which was an
ancient writing instrument. One end was used for writing in wax and the
other for erasure by smoothing the wax. Hence, we have a useful analogy;
style is related to writing and revision-drafting and redrafting.
Webster defines style as a manner of expression characteristic of an
individual. What is characteristic depends on the idiosyncrasy of the particu-
lar writer. No two writers have the same style. Fowler uses idiosyncrasy as a
synonym for individuality or personality. He states that one's idiosyncrasy
is the way one's elements are mixed. As an example, he quotes Mark
Anthony in describing Brutus: He was the noblest Roman of them all....
His life was gentle, and the elements So mixed in him that Nature might
stand up And say to all the world 'This was a man!' 2
Thus we couple the idea of careful and precise writing, the end product
of effort, with the manner of writing peculiar to one's idiosyncrasy. The
result is, broadly speaking, style.
But this defines only the outer limits of style. We know that more-much
more-is involved. The basic elements of style in writing must be con-
sidered. These basics must be related to judicial writing with specific em-
phasis on opinion writing.
* A revised version of an address before the Fifth Annual Seminar for Southern
Appellate Court Judges, University of Alabama, August 16, 1966.
t United States Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth
Judicial Circuit.
2 SHAKESPEARE, Juruus CAEsAR, act V.

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