Thursday, April 1, 2010

Week 8: Sit Down and Write!


Just Say The Word, pp. 1-43. Last stop before we go back to Aristotle...

30 comments:

Luke Lawrence said...

One of the things that jumped out at me in the reading was the text box on page 39. The author told a story of how advised one former student to record his sermon in a tape recorder, and then turn that into a manuscript. I remember being given similar advice when I was in a speech and debate league in high school. I was told to make sure I read my speeches out loud either with an audience or into a tape recorder. It was a great way to find awkward phrasing and to re-write and polish the speech to be much more compelling.

The author also points out one of my pet peeves in any kind of speech: “it goes without saying.” Every time I hear it I think “then don't!” It can be an effective rhetorical device when used intentionally and in limited circumstances, but I agree with the author. It's generally just distracting.

I also liked the rules that were laid out in chapter 5. I remember Professor Counselor telling us in Civ Pro not to use the 50 cent word when the nickle word works just as well.

Travis Phillips said...

I found chapter 1, “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin,” especially striking. It echoes a statement from Professor Osler last week that in a story it is key to take the moment of greatest importance and unfold that moment—emphasizing as much detail as possible. Many of my professors in college had a similar view that a narrative should lead up to the moment of climax, explain that moment, and then address the aftermath.

I wish that the author had gone into much greater detail on this concept, instead of just limiting it to a single chapter’s discussion, because I think that people rarely spend enough time focusing on the most important moment of a story—especially in law school. Openings and closing arguments in PC mini-trials very rarely focused on the key event that explained why a case was in court—instead most of the time, energy, and focus was on contextual details—names, dates, places, background that came across as an impenetrable mass rather than telling jurors what the case was about. There was always too much focus on facts and context rather than expanding the moment of conflict, the moment something went wrong and resulted in a court case.

I thought most of this week’s reading consisted of useful and immediately applicable advice, but the discussion of written rhetoric bothered me. The point of the exercises was to reduce the different examples to the shortest and most succinct message possible. However, I do not believe that is the most effective method in an oral presentation. What matters, is that we as a speakers can make our point—can speak effectively and can adequately place emphasis were we believe it necessary. In that sense, our personally most effective style may be wordy, or highly formal—however, if that is the style we can most successfully work within, then we should use it. We shouldn’t simplify the words and language of a speech just for the sake of simplification.

Drew Pate said...

Chapters 4 and 5 reminded me a lot of LARC 1. I remember doing many similar exercises in our Plain English for Lawyers text. It took me a while to get rid of the verbose writing style that I developed in undergrad. I definitely see a difference in my writing though, and I pick up on these issues a lot quicker.

I had an English professor in college that always got on us for using clichés. This author really nailed it though when he mentioned that clichés depend on the reader/listener. They are really just phrases that a particular person is tired of hearing. For instance, right after discussing clichés the author uses the phrase ‘rule of thumb.’ This is a cliché that my old professor would’ve jumped on me for but it doesn’t bother me. Apparently, this phrase has been around for a while and comes from the old English law that a man could strike his wife as long as he used a stick no wider than his thumb. Thank you Boondock Saints for teaching me that. So, in that sense, it might not be a great phrase to use, but I haven’t heard it so much that it sticks out to me and bothers me as a cliché. I’m sure that there are clichés that we should all avoid using, but at the same time if I have a thought and a cliché like ‘rule of thumb’ is an appropriate way to express it, then I’m going to use it. If that bothers one in five readers or listeners who have heard that phrase too much, then I can live with that. I think it is most important to use language that you are comfortable with that expresses an idea as you see fit.

Nick Chu said...

I think this week’s reading harps to some lessons that were discussed in previous classes. It’s great to see those common themes from other lessons reappear—simplicity, storytelling, and energy. It shows that the themes we focus on in delivering our speech are the same themes we should be focusing on when writing our speech.

Chapter 5 reminded me of my days in politics, before law school. Some of the advice I would give my candidates about fixing their stump speech were some of the same suggestions that I saw in chapter 5. I had one candidate in particular that was a highly educated person and he liked using big words when he spoke and gave interviews. Our staff had to work with him to break that habit and use simple words. It wasn’t that we didn’t want him to sound educated. It was because every time a big word was used, when a simple word would have worked, people focused on that and forgot to listen to the rest of the answer/sentence that he was saying.

This week’s reading focused a lot on making speeches simple. This reminded me of a TV show I watched about the Gettysburg Address. When the Gettysburg cemetery was being dedicated, it turns out that the main event wasn’t Abraham Lincoln addressing the crowd. The main event was a speech made by the Billy Graham of that time (I forgot his name) and Lincoln was invited to speech as kind of an afterthought. During the whole train ride from DC to Gettysburg, Lincoln revised his speech, cutting out paragraphs, and changing some phrases. When it came time to dedicate the cemetery, the Billy Graham like person spoke for two hours! Then it was Lincoln’s turn. He spoke for a few minutes…“For score and seven years ago…” At the end of his speech, Lincoln thought he was horrible because of how short his speech was. A couple days later, Lincoln received a letter from the Billy Graham like person. The letter congratulated Lincoln on such a great speech. Commenting on its brevity, the Billy Graham like person commended something to the effect of, “You said in a few minutes what took me hours to ramble out.”

Hunter Lewis said...

It's really interesting, because as I sat in church today listening to the sermon at noon, I found myself asking several questions that were covered in this reading. Our rector preached the sermon today that told the story of what Easter meant to him and interwove parables and the true meaning of Easter into his sermon. I noticed, though, as he always does, that he got caught up at times in his words because he had written the sermon out on sheets of paper that he held in front of him. I then thought to myself, his sermon seems so fluid, so natural. I asked, did he really write in the side notes and short quips that he adds for comic relief. And realistically, I think he did. This being the case, writing a sermon has to be an art form in and of itself. As chapter 3 and 4 discuss, it is challenging for many people to write "naturally" or as if they were speaking. And a lot of times it comes off as overly verbose and unnatural. To perfect the sermon, the writer really must spend a lot of time on the sermon. As chapter 2 suggested, you really do have to read and reread your work and edit it down to a form that sounds just as if you were speaking with your audience. I think this next assignment will be a very challenging one because writing for a sermon is almost more conversational than writing a speech for in the courtroom, such as an opening or closing. Granted, they both are naturally conversational, so it will be interesting to see the overlap in style.

John Brennan said...

I liked the reading because of the message. We often use unnecessary words. I still don’t like the prayers at the beginning of each chapter so it’ll be nice to go back to Aristotle and be rid of those. The best part about the book so far has been the point of writing how we speak. If lawyers did that more often, legal papers would be more understandable and succinct. I remember over the summer explaining things to clients in legal terms and then giving a plain English explanation that was much shorter and easier for them to understand. The legal profession is plagued with old terms and old, drawn out concepts.
Although legal writing has become more tolerable for the reader in recent decades, it still is more complicated than necessary.
I liked the part on telling the story as part of the group, that helps put the speaker on an equal ground with the audience.

Ashley Yearick said...

For whatever reason, I am still constantly amazed by this book and how relevant it is to trial work, being a lawyer generally and even life. Every time I read a new chapter or section, I think to myself, “That is so true!” or “How obvious, why do people not instinctively do that?” or “How will I ever remember to do all of this?!?” Then I am reminded that the law is a life-long practice, so I will have ample opportunity to learn!
That personal insight aside, several things in the reading this week stuck out to me. The biggest thing, once again, is the importance of telling a good story. Word choice, presentation, content, style, delivery, etc. ALL of these things play a distinct role in what the listener ultimately retains. Resisting the urge to preach at someone and instead converse with someone. Drawing the listener closer to you rather than building up walls and barriers to keep them away. The author spent a great deal of time talking about cutting the fat off your words and I can’t think of any profession where that is more important than being a lawyer. I truly believe that one of the reasons lawyers get bad reputations sometimes is because we make ourselves unavailable to normal speak and pride ourselves in having the ability to do so. By alienating ourselves and what we do from the general populace, our credibility and reliability go right out the window. That is not to say, as the author points out, that we don’t do our homework (the tough legal stuff) but rather that we turn our complex homework into something that people can relate to, buy into and believe in.
Lastly, I don’t think the importance of delivering your work out loud before you come before a jury, judge, client or boss can be overestimated. Things ALWAYS sound different when you write them and say them. Just like the author said, we have been trained to write differently than we think and speak. Some of the best advice I have ever been given is to simply SAY WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY. Stop thinking about the “right” or “best” way to say something, and say exactly what you want to say. THEN think about re-wording, re-phrasing, objections, etc.

Jennifer Salim said...

I just took a break from working on my Moot Court argument to read this, and felt like the author kept calling me out. I spent the afternoon trying to convince myself that “natural and comfortable speech” is better than “wrote memorization.” Too bad he called my theory on what it really is: “extemporaneous unprepared-sounding sermons.”

Okay, so he has me ready to practice. Now he is telling me I have to “lead him in terms that he can understand and apply to his life.” Sounds just like my moot court coach: “Don’t give me the law, give me the common sense application and why I care.” Why is it so easy to have a message, but so difficult to make it applicable to your listener?

At least the author offered some helpful tips. For example, we have to meet the listener (judge or jury) in their world, where they are and then lead them. It’s hard to imagine the judges who are breathing down on you from the bench as being in a circle on the floor with you as you preach, but still, it’s good advice to remember to talk WITH your listener and not AT them, no matter who they are.

Chapter 3 pinpointed why I hate to write my arguments—because then I have to rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite…I usually end up scrapping and rewriting at least ten times once I get started. I like his tip to figure out what you want to accomplish before you start writing. Maybe this will cut down on my rewrite count!

I agree with Mr. Pate that chapters 4 and 5 are like a trip down LARC memory lane, but every lawyer should periodically take that trip. Since there is never a definitive answer in law, we try to camouflage uncertainty in big words, long clauses, and double negatives. I’m the worlds worst about adding the “sort of” language discussed in Chapter 7. (almost, basically, and supposedly)Too bad its painfully obvious to our listeners. (or just confusing!)

On that note, I guess I have some practicing to do…out loud.

Travis Bragg said...

I liked the distinction between polemic, aggressive arguing, and irenic speech, speech favoring peace or conciliation. As the author discussed the interplay between these two thoughts in discussing religion, I began to reflect on the interplay in the courtroom. Although a trial is an adversarial match, more often than not, in fact almost always, a lawyer is engaging in irenic discourse. During direct examination, the lawyer is usually asking questions of a friendly witness in an arena where there is no need for confrontation. Even during cross, the ”conversation” should have a more irenic tone. One will never get the witness to give the desired answer to this question: “You were totally, utterly, and grossly negligent, weren’t you Mr. Defendant?” Or to borrow a line from Irving Younger’s renowned speech: “DO YOU NOW CONFESS YOURSELF TO BE A FACIST BEAST!?” One rarely, if ever, quarrels with an unfriendly witness; the witness will never give the answer one wants, and the jury will feel sympathy for the witness, disgust at the lawyer, or both. Instead, a great cross has a ring of understanding calm to it. As Professor Counseller says, you make the water warm (don’t ask me how) and invite them to swim.

The same can be said for closing arguments, even though arguing is in the name. This is trickier. While the speech is technically a debate with opposing council, the audience is the jury. So of course one does not argue with the jury. Instead, the idea is to give a well-reasoned discussion of the facts and story of the case, and how they relate to the questions on the jury form. The only time a conversation takes on a purely polemic attitude is when arguing a motion or evidence issue. But here again, the audience is the judge, and one never talks directly to the other side. So while voices are raised and the statements are argumentative, there still is an underlying irenic tone to it all.

sameerk117 said...

My AP English teacher in high school use to always say “look at the nutritional value of your words.” I always thought it was an original phrase/way of teaching, but it may not have been! I was surprised to find this language being used in this week’s reading. It was the first time I heard it/read it anywhere else. After I read this section, I couldn’t help but dig through some boxes to find my collection of writings from high school. Sure enough, I found comments in the margins of a few of my high school papers that read “what are you feeding your reader,” “cut the fat, save the calories,” “you’re readers are starving, give them some meat.” Even now, seven or eight years later, I still think in this context and have made similar comments when reviewing my work and the work of others. Although high school seems ages ago, this advice has definitely stuck. It is something I try to apply/think of in everything I write. I enjoyed this reading as it was a pleasant little reminder.

I also enjoyed the emphasis put on writing for the ear, and taking formal writing and turning it into effective spoken word. From our first weeks of law school, Professor Cordon has preached about the importance of moving past traditional convoluted and excessively formal legal writing. The same advice is given here. Although I questioned, and at times, was critical of the parallels between preaching and practicing law, I see it more and more every week. This week’s reading provided just another reminder of the importance of being succinct, word choice, and cutting the fat.


- Sameer Karim

Michael Bernick said...

The list of rules to simplify your writing would make Prof. Cordon smile. LARC was a refreshing reminder of all the extra crap that we fill our oral/written messages and this reading revisited lessons learned there. Writing a second and third draft helps remove this garbage. The rule about excessively using “that” hit home because “that” is the word I see overused most frequently.

It annoys me that lawyers try to write like they are highly educated to show that they are highly educated. This past summer, the high-priced defense attorneys from Dallas must have been paid by the syllable when drafting their motions because I have never seen so many $5 words. The goal of communication is easily explain even difficult subject matter.

Writer’s block can cripple a work before it begins as the author searches for the perfect way to write something. Usually, the best way to write it is the way you would say it. When writing a brief or a memo, I frequently talk to myself to hear if what I am thinking is what I want to write. This serves several purposes: it breaks the mental block, it simplifies what I am trying to communicate, and it gives me a starting point. Saying what you're trying to say defeats writer's block.

David Henry said...

I like the idea of simplicity in theory, and enjoyed the authors discussion of it, but it seems like there is a simplicity floor that we have to constantly be aware of as future attorneys. I am reminded of some of the advocacy exercises in PC where it was the small minute details that could drastically change the outcome of the case. While they might not have had much significance in the telling of the story, those details did have significance in application of law to facts. I think that was always a constant struggle for me.

I am all for simplification but I caught myself a number of times trying to oversimplify when I probably shouldn't have been. It is easier for me to tell a story when I know the high points and I can fill in the details on my own on the fly. For instance, if I had to make up some of the details in our story telling exercise it wasn't really a big deal. I knew the high points and I could easily fill in details. It is more difficult for me in a trial-type situation where 1) I am restricted by how the details actually went down, and 2) there are more details that are important because of their legal significance. It was more difficult for me the more legally significant details there were because I felt myself constantly thinking about the long checklist of facts that I had to make sure and talk about instead of being able to focus on connecting with my audience while I was telling the story.

Also, my two cents on cliches is that while they may be annoying to some, a lot of times they have become cliches for a reason. Sometimes it just seems like they are the best way to describe a situation or circumstances in a succinct manner that is easily understandable.

Catherine Hoyer said...

I have heard sermons where it felt like the Pastor was simply telling me facts about the book of the Bible he was reading from, and I have heard sermons where instead of simply telling facts, the Pastor introduced to us (maybe “helped us meet” is a better description) the characters in the passage he was reading from. I much prefer the second one. But, I have also heard sermons where (in an effort to “come down to our level”) the Pastor left out a lot of details which I knew about the background of the passage, and I thought would have made a big difference in his sermon. My point is, that while I agree that in speaking you need to meet your audience where they are, I think that you also must be cautious to not oversimplify to the point that your speech becomes less powerful.

But overall, I really appreciated the practical advice that the author gave. I have taken other public speaking classes, but none that approached public speaking from this perspective. This is a book that I will keep around, and I think I will find myself referencing again

Jonathan Silko said...

I think most of this week's reading can be summed up in one phrase, keep it simple. If it's not simple, your message will not have the same effect, and potentially, your audience won't understand it. Obviously neither of these is a good thing.

This is a great struggle of mine. I tend to think of myself as a good writer. When trying to write a speech, or tell a story to be read, I really struggle breaking away from the formality or "rules" of writing that has been beaten into me since the first grade.

He makes the distinction between writing for reading and writing for hearing, but I don't think the gap is as wide as he makes it seem. Obviously, there are situations when you are required to write formally. If you are attempting to write a story to be read it is still easier to understand if you write in a simple fashion. And it can make the writing seem more personal whether its written to be read or heard.

William King said...

Writing for the ear is difficult. That difficulty is made especially clear when you watch someone who makes it look effortless and you try to mimic that effort.

Jacks reiterates a point that I have heard emphasized by so many teachers and writers - lean prose is critical. Easier said than done.

When I’m reminded of the “lean prose is critical” mantra, I think of my favorite authors. Hemingway always springs to mind. His sentences are about 10 words long, they are spare and have one or two clauses. The beautiful thing about Hemingway’s works is that the story is accessible to any literate person on its surface, but there’s so much more in what he left out. I think a good analogy for this technique is that oftentimes the scariest movie monsters are the ones you never see on the screen.

I wish Jacks would have expanded chapter 4 by explaining how he crafts rhythm and tone (I don’t think Jacks really touches on this in the book). The twelve pointers he suggests are certainly helpful in establishing a rhythm to your story, but I would have liked to read his thoughts on shaping the sound of a speech. Sometimes just the “sound” of a speech makes a big difference (maybe that's the gap between reading and listening to a speech). For example, if you read a transcript of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech, you can see how his word choice and the pacing of his sentences just lend themselves to a mellifluous delivery.

PETE said...

This weekend I also noticed the great story-telling techniques from my church leaders. Starting their talks with a story was a great way to introduce the topic in a simple and understandable way. I also noticed that every speaker was about a million times better than I was the other day in our exercise. Telling a simple story isn't so simple. There's a lot of work that goes into it. I think that after more experience it'll come easier.

I liked Chapter 2. When you look at speaking from the perspective of a journey that the speaker and listener take together, it sets the tone for your communication. Back when my wife and I taught Sunday school, we would always try to get as much class participation as possible. When the others shared their own experiences and thoughts on the lesson, it always made that hour of Sunday school so much more uplifting.

In chapter 1, Jacks made a good point about how it's easy to lose perspective when you stay locked up in the library for hours a day. It reminded me of an experience I had coming back to BLS as a 2Q after my deployment. There was a class exercise where we (me and a bunch of 2 and 3L's) had to interpret certain phrases. I remember my interpretations being completely different from everyone else. It made me feel insecure at first; like I was missing the point completely. Then I thought about how I was the one in the best position to give a "real world" interpretation of the phrases. I had just spent a year away from all the books and cases. I wasn't jaded yet! I've tried to keep that perspective up to this point. My career goal is get into court as much as possible. I don't want to get up there and sound like a stuffy fool. I want to be able to break it down to jury in a way that clear and understandable.

blake whitcomb said...

Travis Bragg stole some of the point I wanted to make but I’m still going to talk about it.

Chapter 2 deals with the “stuffiness” of our words and then goes into the difference between irenic and polemic speech. Jacks emphasizes the irenic form’s humble tone and compares this to naked arguments. While the argumentative style has its place in a courtroom, couching most of your arguments in a friendly style seems like a more affective form in front of a jury. The author points out arguments are debatable but irenic statements are offered as (possibly subjective) facts. If “we” (the jury and I) share one common viewpoint and “we” understand another to be likely true, then the rest of the argument begins to form on its own. Letting the jury happily fall into your point of view can be just as effective as hammering them into the same spot. And suddenly I’m back at Aristotle.

The rest of the little tips and prohibitions (negative tips?) solidified this book’s place in the “keepers pile” of books from law school that are applicable irrespective of the type of law I end up practicing.

April Holland said...

The reading this week reiterated many things we have talked about in previous classes. Although writing for the hear defies grammar and the way we have been taught to write in school, it makes sense just to talk to your audience and present your material in a way that is real to your audience. The author makes a good point that the words to need to come alive by avoiding essay writing with surplusage and big words. I liked how the author went through written example and then provided rules (not RULES) to change typical writing into writing that is intriguing and easy to listen to. These chapters seem to pull in ethos and pathos from Aristotle: capture the audience’s attention through establishing credibility and invoke the audience’s emotion by identifying commonalities that are relatable. In writing for the ear, the audience seems to be able to zero in on what your saying immediately as opposed to tuning you out because you are boring and sound like you are reading a term paper. All these tips and suggestions seem to be very relevant to the courtroom. If you are able to take aspects of the case and make them come alive to the jury in a way that not only holds their attention, but also makes them care about it, then when the jury deliberates they will remember what you said and hopefully hang on to it.

Patrick Sheridan said...

After reading this week’s assignment, I thought, “Wait…writing for the ear? Written rhetoric? I thought we weren’t supposed to memorize a speech. So why are we writing it out?”

After thinking about it, I concluded that writing out the speech is the best way to see what it is you are saying. The words are all there at once and you can see the structure and patterns in the way you are presenting ideas. If all you had was your voice, then the words are gone as soon as you say them and it is hard to see how a particular piece fits in the whole.

Also, there is a degree of physicality in editing a written text. When you actually cross out a word or rearrange a sentence structure with a pen, it is more memorable in your mind. It helps to engrain the rules in my head to actually apply them to a written example. I guess that is why Jacks included all those examples and rewrites in Chapter 5.

So even though a written speech will never be memorized and delivered verbatim (hopefully), it can still serve as mnemonic device to get the big idea and structure in your head and to engrain the rules of good rhetorical speaking, at least regarding the topic at hand.

John said...

I agree with many of my classmates that this week’s reading reminded me of my first day of LARC. Cordon’s basic message was that although we thought we knew how to write we would soon learn a more effective way to tackle issues. He also said that while many lawyers may use verbose Dickens-esque type language, that writing style is not beneficial to the audience. There are enough terms of art in law already without changing the few words people can understand into legalese. Then he went on to say something else about IRAC and kind of lost me from there.

This week’s reading reminded me of that lecture. The most effective and persuasive speech is the simplest. The goal is persuasion, not to stun the audience with our genius. I also like Mr. Henry’s point about our role as future attorneys. As attorneys we will be paid to give attention to detail and to catch what others miss. The key is to take that detailed, intricate story and say the same thing in half the words without losing any of the content. It will take lots of time and practice. When you teach math there may be many principles and rules that must be followed to solve the problem. Principles that are so engrained in the teacher that they seem almost innate. But the teacher must have a great understanding of the problem in order to break it down into rules, principles, elements, or steps.

It is the same with law, there will be many things that become our second nature. I’m already discovering that I can convince myself that either side of a case is the winning one. (Depending on which party I am told to represent). To persuade, we must find a way to take the details and intricacy of the law and facts in our cause and make them simple. And that’s the rub.

James Hatchitt said...

The first time I was told to use "jury words," it hurt my feelings. I had spent the previous 24 years trying to sound intellectual. Now, I wasn't allowed to say things like "unbeknownst" and "elucidate." But when I thought about it, what all of our professors said made perfect sense. I was using language to separate myself from my audience, telling them that I was refined and educated. But most of the time, that's not what we want to do. It's difficult to connect with and persuade people when you're constantly reminding them that you think you're smarter than they are. What Jacks says about speaking a human language during sermons instead of filling it with theologocial garbage echoes things that we learn here about talking to juries.

You can always tell, too, when people are reciting from memory. There's not a natural flow or rhythm to the prose. I've worked with people who write out speeches word for word in order to make them perfect. I've never done it that way. One half of me says it's because I realized what it would sound like, but the other (more self-aware) half says it's because I never wanted to put in the work to memorize a three page oration. Whatever the reason, I found the same thing that Jacks did about sermons or lectures delivered from a written document: they're boring. I've found that the best speaking I do comes when I know the subject inside and out and just start talking with a couple of goals in mind.

Phil Bean said...

Chapter 1 interested me, because it seems that in Law School, people begin to change like the author's students did. People go from talking like a person to talking like a textbook. A few weeks ago, my friend was doing an opening statement for me that she had written. She wanted some pointers. By the end of it, all I knew was that something medical had gone wrong - but I had no idea what. The problem was that she had tailored her opening to someone who knew what she knew - everything about all the diseases, medical terms, and legal terms.

Just like Jacks says, I told her that she's got to speak to her listener to connect, otherwise they'll be confused, and probably dislike her for trying to sound like a smartypants lawyer. While things like "pains reverberating throughout the cerebellum" may look nice on paper, it's much easier to tell a jury "she had a painful headache".

This chapter also reminded me about the Easter sermon given at church yesterday. Instead setting the scene by telling us it was 2000 years ago, blah blah blah, the priest started off singing a song - the High Hopes song made famous by Sinatra. It set the tone for his sermon - he was speaking to us in a way we could understand and connect, and also laid out his theme for the day, "hope".

Kim said...

In Chapter 2, one of the author’s main points is to talk to the audience like you’re talking to an equal, not to preach down to them like you are better and more knowledgeable than they are. The rest of the reading deals with how to “write for the ear”. I think talking to the audience like they are your friends or family is one way to build ethos. “Writing for the ear” is what you do to help you talk to the audience in a more down to earth way.

Ethos is something almost everyone in my storytelling group lacked when they told their story, including myself. I’ve been thinking about how we could have put ourselves and our credibility into the story ever since Thursday. I think that if you talk down to anyone and act like you know more than they do (even if you do in fact know more), then you lose credibility. Instead, talking to someone like a friend or a family member- like you’re not only equal to them but also respect them- builds credibility. As lawyers we tend to use big words and talk down even to each other. There’s nothing worse than a fight between law students where one is pointing out to the other what the “issue” really is.

Like my fellow classmates said before, we learned in LARC (and also in PC) to use smaller words and talk like you would talk to a local Wacoan at Wal-Mart. Many of us in PC were advised not to write out an opening or closing and then memorize it because it would sound canned and fake. Regardless if we write out a speech sentence by sentence or if you make a bullet pointed list of topics, I think the techniques described in Chapters 3-6 will help us to communicate better with audiences on their level.

The one suggestion I didn’t 100% agree with was the section called Repetitive Redundancies. I see the author’s point- that both of the words in the phrase mean exactly the same thing, so there is no need to say them twice. However, I think that many of these phrases are phrases we use everyday without thinking about how repetitive they are or not. Everyday people (the people in juries and audiences) don’t sit around and over-analyze the phrases, especially since they are also using them. Because our audience members use these phrases on a regular basis, I don’t think these phrases have to be completely avoided in a speech.

James Reed said...

I enjoyed the discussion about using more simple language to get your message across, as opposed to the over flowery language typical of some attorneys. Before I ever walked through the doors of this law school I thought that good lawyers had expansive vocabularies and every time they spoke it was their goal to use as many “S.A.T.” words as possible. I thought that if after the lawyer was done speaking, he had used at least five words I had no idea what the meaning was, he had been successful. This couldn’t be farther from the truth when it comes to an affective oral advocate. The goal of oral advocacy is to persuade, and in order to do that effectively the information needs to be conveyed in a manner that the hearer is able to easily understand. Simplicity is the key to doing this effectively. A good attorney can take the most complicated intellectual property issue, boil it down to its most basic principle and explain it in language that a 12 year old could comprehend. I constantly have to remind myself not to use unnecessary words. Many times I think we fall into the trap of thinking the more we speak and the more words we use the more persuasive we are. The opposite of that is almost always true.

Bryan Jiral said...

I wrote Newspaper in High school and since space is always an issue, it forced us to figure out how to say alot in a small amount of space. I saw a little bit of the same thing being advocated here. In college I always tried to stretch my papers out to the word limit, and so I was rudely awakened when I took LARC and started writing law school style reports.
I also liked the tape recorder idea. I have never done that, but I talk to my self when I write and so it really makes sense to tape the whole thing and figure out where the pauses are and how the phrasing works. I would be scared that I would work out the exact wording on tape and then try to memorize it though.
I thought about my storytelling exercise when I was reading this, because I actually forgot some of the words I wanted to use, and I just had to speak using words as if I was talking to a buddy. I quit trying to be 'lawyerly', and though I have never sounded overly academic, I did realize that it was much more natural to just let the story flow, and I think this is what the author is getting at this

Vince Ortega said...

Simplicity and humility. I think sometimes, when people go for the fancy word instead of the regular word, it can come off as arrogant. This arrogance may have the effect of thwarting your speech entirely, by undercutting whatever important message you are trying to get across with a non-verbal message disagreeable to your listeners. It's a funny thing, using the fancy words, because even when your personality or your style seem totally normal or even down to earth, those words, to the common listener, may still have the effect of hacking at your credibility. You may be seen as "high falutin" or a "nansy pansy". Someone earlier mentioned what Professor Counseller taught us about the nickel word, I remembered that too and it comes to mind often when I am writing. It's not to say that the 50 cent word is never appropriate, I think it just depends upon your hearers.

And, much like many of my classmates, I certainly find annoyances in the use of cliches. But it goes without saying, that sometimes, good lord willing, if you give 110% in planning out what you are saying, and find an appropriate use of the cliche, the words may work together in a real team effort, to make an effective point.

Jean L. Finch said...

I can appreciate that teaching the necessity of speaking drastically different than how you write, by writing 3 chapters about it, is difficult. And the author should get credit for his attempts to maintain the readers’ attention and insinuate the importance of both good writing and good speaking by using traditional requirements of both to illustrate the point, while emphasizing their necessary differences. Maybe using phrases like “abustle with creativity”, “the sense world”, and “offer it up to the Lord” were just the author’s way of gently insinuating the necessary differences between writing and speaking. If so, then he did a great job of finding phrases so awkward I couldn’t read more than a page without pausing to notice a particular phrase phrase makes the entire idea less understandable.

The Take-Away for Me:

From Belshazzar’s Feast: It’s not the Aramaic I’m going to take for granted. I’m much more likely to assume the reader approaches the story with the same frame work I do which can leave them just as confused as telling the story in a different language. It’s important to ensure you tell stories from a common platform – find the common ground of understanding between you and the listeners and bring the story from where they are.


Pride Comes Before A Fall: Much like the most evangelical parts of me, when I read good advice about speaking I always manage to identify other people who need to hear the lesson. Instead, I need to examine my own behavior and be willing to point to flaws in an area I consider myself strong in.


The Ambiguous “Us”/”We”: One of the most tragic problems in the modern church is the member who hears “us” and “we” and fails to see the individual application. When members sit in church, hear solid truth, and apply it to how “we” need to be or how the truth should change “us” it can be really easy to avoid applying it on a personal level. The failure of personal application can lead to a number of really dangerous side effects: 1. because application is to the “us” we measure ourselves against other people instead of to The Standard Bearer which makes the church this self-righteous, judgmental, injury causing place. 2. the standard/truth is applied to a mass of people rather than our individual lives which allows us to avoid the painful work of self-examination and allow our faith to stagnate. although the author discourages over-use of “you” and second person voice, it is an essential portion of proclaiming the full counsel of God. however, both in a religious and legal context, it should be closely monitored to ensure that whatever pronoun is being used is effective in accomplishing the speakers’ goals.

Kristin Postell said...

This week's reading was an excellent reminder that we have be aware of how our words sound. I think that as lawyers it is just as important for us to make our speeches more like conversations. When you talk down to jurors or use big words you alienate those who see you as arrogant. You can better serve your clients to make yourself as down to earth as possible. When you talk over the heads of jurors they will not listen to your client's story.

I also think the reading makes me very aware of how I write. Already when writing this post I have switched sentences around and taken out some whichs and thats. It is difficult to relearn how to construct a piece of writing when you have been taught for so many years to add fluff to make sure your research paper reaches 20 pages or your essay test is just as long as your classmates'. I always thought that writing in a conversational way should be easy because you just put on paper what you would say out loud. I've learned that it takes concentration and deliberate editing to make sure the words you use have a clear and clean message. It is so easy to just say phrases such as "inextricably intertwined" but hard to recognize that many people forget what that actually means. Your message can be much more powerful when you take the time to choose words that are simple and clear. People can walk away with the meaning of your words instead of being impressed by them.

Brad said...

When reading this weeks Just Say The Word I was reminded of what
Powell would say when he would hear an opening or a cross examination that was full of "legal-eze." I needed to break down a DX & CX of a medical expert. I had to break it down so I could understand it before
I even thought about trying to "teach" the jury about heart problems. I found that the more time I spent absorbing the material the more comfortable I felt delivering the DX & disecting the CX. I liked the point that when Jesus wanted to make a point he didn't lecture, he told a story. After taking Counsellers Adv Trial Ad I realized how important the first 90 sec are in your opening statement.
You've got to hook the jury with your story; not a lecture, scolding,or science experiment. The chapter made an interesting cooment when he said listeners will "reach behind" your stories for more info. Stories are the only way jurors will want to here are ideas of what really happened.
The messages on good writing always hold true - less is more. When I really tried to focus my whole case on a few points and I tried to use my DX, CX, opening, & closing to develop those few points I thought I always tried my best cases. The problem is narrowing down the points.
Once again, the more time I spent with it the more I understood what
few things I need to tell the jury.

Cheryl said...

I thought this week’s reading was really practical, which I like. When the author talked about “writing for the lobe,” I never really thought about it differently than writing a paper but it made sense. Thinking back on exercises for moot court and Criminal Practice and Procedure, what I prepared on paper and what I actually ended up saying were very different. Additionally, with our story telling exercise the same was true.

I also thought it was interesting how preaching is similar to being in a courtroom. With seminary, there are special terms and language used as there is in the law. And as a preacher has to remember that their congregation does not always understand the special terminology, attorneys have to remember that there jury does not know “legalize.”

The exercises were very helpful as well, and it was a nice review since LARC. If I don’t make a mental note to myself to keep things concise and leave out extra wordage, I will fall back into my undergrad wordy writing style.