§ 46. Embrace constructive criticism.
Find a book chapter or a law-review note or article in need of a good edit. Retype a substantial section--at least one full page (but omit substantive footnotes)--in triple-spaced format. Then edit it. If you're part of a writing group or class, bring a copy of the marked-up version for each colleague.
Agree with a colleague that the two of you will do some mutual editing. Each of you will then write a three-paragraph persuasive essay. (Don't forget § 30.) Exchange the essays, edit them within a specified period, and then meet to discuss your edits. Each of you should agree to (1) listen open-mindedly to the other's edits, and (2) refrain from making unduly negative remarks on your colleague's essay. Each of you should use your colleague's edits to revise the original.
If you're part of a writing group or class, write a five-page essay defending a controversial legal position. Polish it. Make three copies (keep the original for yourself) and bring them to the meeting. The leader or instructor will divide the class into groups of three for purposes of exchanging papers. You'll then edit the essays from the other two people in your group, and they will edit yours. Try not to edit lightly. Write a note at the end of each paper you edit, noting both strengths and weaknesses; cover both style and content. (Say something positive if you can--and you always can.) When you return the following week, you'll have two sets of edits--possibly even three, if the leader or instructor has also edited your essay. Use the best edits (at least half) to revise the essay.
© 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.