Ruth Bader Ginsburg Persuaded Difficult to Convince People Through Her Writing 

October 6, 2020
October 6, 2020 Ahmad Raza

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Persuaded Difficult to Convince People Through Her Writing 

“Ginsburg credited her European literature professor at Cornell, Vladimir Nabokov, for changing the way she wrote. Nabokov, who went on to write the famous novel Lolita, taught Ginsburg that “Words could paint pictures.”

Choosing the right words in the right order “could make an enormous difference in conveying an image or an idea,” Ginsburg recalled…During the 27 years that Ginsburg served as a Supreme Court Justice, she continued to work “very hard” on persuasive writing.

Ginsburg didn’t just hold strong opinions on gender equality, she had strong views on writing. She believed that all lawyers had an obligation to learn to write and communicate as clearly as possible.

Although Ginsburg offered tips to lawyers, her advice applies to professionals in any field who want to be more persuasive.

1). Get to the point.

“Good, concise writing counts,” Ginsburg said.

Ginsburg used the opening paragraphs of her written opinions as a “kind of press release” that got straight to the point.

“I go through innumerable drafts,” Ginsburg once said about the writing process.

“I try hard to write an opinion so that no one has to read a sentence twice to get what it means. I generally open an opinion with a kind of a press release account of what is this case about, what is the legal issue involved, how did the court decide it and the main reason why. So if you don’t want to go further, it’s there in a nutshell.”

2). Keep it short.

“A lawyer’s skill is not to dump the kitchen sink before the judge but to refine the arguments to the ones that a judge can accept,” Ginsburg said.

“My eye is on the reader…I try to be as clear and concise as I can be. If my opinion runs more than 20 pages, I’m disturbed that I can’t do it shorter.”

Ginsburg once said that the court allows 50 pages for an opening brief, but it’s not necessary to fill all the space allotted. “Lawyers can’t seem to give up the extra space,” she said. Not only did it lead to eye fatigue, Ginsburg added, it also annoys the reader.

3). Say it in Plain English

“I can’t bear legalese,” Ginsburg once said, referring to the arcane jargon of the legal profession. “If you can say it in plain English, you should.”

Ginsburg said that simple words and plain English would result in shorter documents and help the general public better understand what lawyers and judges actually do. “Write clear enough for a lay audience,” she advised.

Ginsburg was once asked if lawyers have a professional obligation to sharpen their writing skills.

“Yes, I think so,” Ginsburg responded.

“A lawyer is a skilled professional who has an obligation to serve the public. The more effective a lawyer can be in speech and writing. the better professional he or she will be.”


Carmine Gallo,




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