Reading About Writing

Below is some of the best reading about writing to inspire your emails and typed chats with classmates and professors while social distancing. These guides will also help with your seminar papers, research project memos, and cover letters. You can access many of these online from wherever you are. The Law Library is here to help you access the others:

Tom Goldstein & Jethro K. Lieberman, The Lawyer’s Guide to Writing Well (3d ed. 2016) – A law professor and journalism professor teamed up to help us over stumbling blocks that level law students, professors, librarians, and lawyers alike, such as overly long sentences. And procrastination. They devote an entire chapter to email. Access the ebook through this Virgo record.

Bryan A. Garner (with Jeff Newman, Tiger Jackson), The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (4th ed. 2018) – Should you capitalize names of the seasons? When is a semicolon appropriate? This well-organized resource puts answers at your fingertips to questions you’ve likely had. Its guidelines are a formula for professional and polished writing. It isn’t available online but the Law Library is – peruse its table of contents here and see this page for ways to contact us.  

Eugene Volokh, Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, Seminar Papers, and Getting on Law Review (5th ed. 2016) – Consult this one at each step along the way from figuring out what to write about to editing. Contact us for help accessing it.

William Strunk, Jr. & E.B. White, The Elements of Style – Strunk and his student White (writer of Charlotte’s Web and for The New Yorker) cover some of the same kinds of things as The Redbook, like when to use “that” or “which.” They’re addressing writers generally, but White’s advice to write with nouns and verbs, avoid wordiness, and revise is essential straight talk for legal writers. HathiTrust is offering UVA students temporary access to the third edition in their Emergency Temporary Access Service – here’s how:

  • Log in: Go to HathiTrust’s site and click the yellow “log in” button to select University of Virginia as your institution. You’ll be prompted to sign in with your Netbadge.
  • Find the book: Type “william strunk white elements of style” in the search box and select to search the catalog (not full text). Choose the first result and click into one of its temporary access options.
  • Check out the book: Click the check out button to view the book for an hour. Your check out will renew automatically if no one else has requested the book.

George Orwell, Politics and the English Language, The New Republic, June 17, 1946, at 872 & June 24, 1946 at 903 – In a handful of pages Orwell explains why clear writing leads to clear thinking plus how to do it, and amuses with examples of pretentious and meaningless words. Find this article and many more in UVA’s Virgo card catalog (link to part 1 of it here, and part 2 of it by navigating to the June 24 New Republic issue from this Virgo record).  

For sheer pleasure of reading great writing about writing, check out horror and fantasy novelist Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity (all three temporarily available in HathiTrust), and poet Mary Oliver’s Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse. To peek at what other people have written to each other during trying times, see if your local public library system has ebooks of collections like My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, Vol. 1, 1915-1933 (Sarah Greenough ed.), which includes O’Keeffe’s description of her stint in Charlottesville.

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Kristin Glover

Kristin Glover is a Research Librarian at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library.

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