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Friday, February 3, 2012

Dear Law Review Editors:

Thank you very much for (1) soliciting or (2) accepting my article.  I'm happy to publish it in your journal.

I truly appreciate the hard work that you did in cite-checking and editing my article.  You cleaned up some problems and made it better. 

One complaint, though:  you need to remember that my article will be published under my name, not yours.  Therefore, I will reject all of your attempts to "clean up" my writing by replacing my informal style with your more formal one.

I'm sorry if law school gave you the impression that you must use stuffy writing in order to write well.  That's incorrect.  The best contracts are written with straightforward language.  The best briefs are those with simple, declarative sentences and active voice.

I know that some of my law professor colleagues write more formally than I do, and there's nothing wrong with the way that they write.  That's their choice, and I respect it.  But I also respect the choice of those who write less formally, and I include myself in the latter group.

When you're starting out, you find your own voice first by imitating the voice of more senior lawyers and then, slowly, figuring out your most authentic way of communicating.  Once you have your own authentic voice, treasure it.  Being true to yourself will take you far in life.

Of course, in order to break the rules of formal writing, you must know them.  So if you're weak on rules of grammar or punctuation, learn them.  Then you can decide when and how to break (some of) them.

Writing is like jazz.  Jazz is great because it knows the rules of classical music and chooses when and where to break those rules.

Find your jazz voice.  I have mine.