Pinker2Whether asked to deliver a speech or write an article for a magazine whose audience is primarily non-lawyers, many lawyers find it a challenge to present their ideas in a clear, straightforward fashion without resorting to legalese.

In a recent blog post, Eric Barker offered some assistance to anyone who is stymied by the prospect of a blank page. The post, entitled “How to Be a Better Writer,” distils some of the key guidelines on effective writing that are offered in the best-selling book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, by the noted cognitive scientist and linguist Steven Pinker.

Barker’s summary ranges from pointers that will have direct relevance to those with expertise in a particular field (like the law) – “Beware the curse of knowledge” – to ones that should help anyone faced with the task of putting words together clearly and concisely: “You don’t have to play by the rules (but try).”

Barker’s quotes from Pinker and summaries of his suggestions are likely to lead most people decide to read Pinker’s entire book, but in the meantime they serve as an interesting guide that can immediately be put to work.

I welcome your comments on this or any other matter, either below or directly via email.