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Write to win
September, 07th 2006
Accountants and lawyers often compete in the same professional space. One example is appellate work. To help, here is the second edition of The Winning Brief, by Bryan A. Garner, with `100 tips for persuasive briefing in trial and appellate courts,' from Oxford University Press ( The first tip is the Flowers Paradigm of `madman-architect-carpenter-judge' a breakdown of writing process into four steps by Betty S. Flowers. Each step is `based on a character or personality that we all have within us,' explains Garner. The madman `is full of ideas, writes crazily, and perhaps rather sloppily, gets carried away by enthusiasm and desire, and if really let loose, can turn out ten pages an hour.' But his nemesis is the judge; for, `he speaks with the voice of an English teacher,' who can peer over your shoulder and say, `that's trash.' However, `keep the judge at bay until the end of the writing process,' advises Garner. The architect comes next, to make connections between the ideas generated by the madman. "In the first instance, the architect's work is non-linear, but it will end up in the form of a linear outline." Carpenter then starts building the draft, `filling in the blanks' according to the architectural specs. Thereafter, the judge starts looking for `ways to improve the draft.' He checks if there are `transitions between paragraphs.' "The judge is a quality-control inspector." Garner counsels that you need to give time on stage for each of these characters `at the forefront of your brain.' More tips Tip 6 says, `Write a draft straight through, without stopping to edit. Let it sit awhile before editing.' Benefit from Alexander Pope's insight: "Compose with fury and correct with phlegm.' Don't even take time to pick the right words, urges Garner. "When you learn to write this way, the prose itself takes on a different quality. The judicial reader will probably sense greater swiftness within your paragraphs. They won't be laborious reading." One of the tips speaks of `the 90-second test.' That is, "Every brief should make its primary point within 90 seconds." Tip 9 can come in the way of the usual drafting of auditing questionnaires. It says, "Don't start with whether or any other interrogative word." Reason: "The common whether version isn't really a sentence at all much less a question." Weave facts into your issues to make them concrete, suggests tip 12. "An abstract style is always bad. Your sentences should be full of stones, metals, chairs, tables, animals, men, and women," says Alain de Lille, in one of the `quotable quotes.' Writing should be concrete, insists Sumner Ives, in another quote. Writing should `evoke images and refer o something the reader can identify with particular experiences,' elaborates Ives. "A general concept like motion is interesting to a philosopher, but an ordinary reader wants to know what is moving, how fast, whether it is going toward him or away from him, and what effect the motion of this object will have on his income or his likelihood of getting a good night's sleep." Tip 16 commands, "Begin a paragraph with a topic sentence. Don't end the preceding paragraph with what should be the next paragraph's topic sentence." Topic sentence centres the paragraph by announcing `what the paragraph is all about.' The subsequent tip draws attention to the importance of a bridge between paragraphs. "That's how you create fluent prose, in which the ideas are closely connected." Three devices to build bridges are pointing words (this, that, these, those) that point to `something immediately preceding'; echo links, that is, "words that repeat an idea in summary language or otherwise reverberate from what has just preceded"; and explicit connectives (further, moreover, in addition, likewise, in sum) to achieve transition. Prescribed reading for the argumentative accountants.
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