§ 24. Introduce each paragraph with a topic sentence.
Write a new topic sentence for the following paragraph--one that you could insert at the beginning while leaving the following sentences intact:
Over the past 100 years, legal publishers developed an intricate set of printed materials that controlled the flow of legal information. Most of this apparatus was built around cases. Elaborate systems of reporting, digesting, tracing, and evaluating cases developed. Until very recently, mastering these systems was the essence of learning legal research. The lawyer graduating from law school in 1975 had to know much more than someone who graduated in 1875, because the use of traditional paper-based, case-centered tools had grown more complex. But it was still a system built on the old paradigm of the paper-information world. This old-style research is the only kind of research that some senior lawyers, judges, and law professors accept as legitimate. That will change in the course of the next generation, but it hasn't yet changed completely. Meanwhile, the new world of legal research is rooted in electronic information. In the past 30 years, the variety of electronic databases has grown and the information that they store, as well as the search methods for using them, have improved enormously. Even the Internet carries a wide range of legal information. The modern researcher must know how to retrieve these modern tools.
In published legal writing, find a four-page passage with strong topic sentences. Underline them. If you're part of a writing group or class, bring copies of your work to the next meeting.
In published legal writing, find a four-page passage with weak topic sentences. Edit the passage to strengthen them. If you're part of a writing group or class, bring copies of your work to the next meeting.
© 2001, Bryan A. Garner
These exercises appear in Bryan A. Garner's Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text with Exercises, published by The University of Chicago Press and available at bookstores and on the Web at www.press.uchicago.edu.