Bryan A. Garner

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Bryan Garner
Two men in shirtsleeves work at a table with papers in front of them.
Bryan A. Garner (left) works on a book with Antonin Scalia.
Born (1958-11-17) November 17, 1958 (age 59)
Lubbock, Texas, U.S.
Occupation Lawyer, lexicographer, teacher
Notable works Garner's Modern English Usage, Garner's Dictionary of Legal Usage

Bryan A. Garner (born November 17, 1958) is an American lawyer, lexicographer, and teacher who has written more than two dozen books about English usage and style,[1] and advocacy.[2][3] He wrote two books with Justice Antonin Scalia: Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges (2008) and Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts (2012). Founder and president of LawProse Inc.,[4] he serves as Distinguished Research Professor of Law at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law.[5]


Garner was born in Lubbock, Texas[6] and raised in San Marino, California, and Canyon, Texas. He attended Canyon High School, then the University of Texas at Austin, where he was enrolled in a liberal arts honors program called Plan II (1977–1980). Garner published excerpts from his senior thesis, notably "Shakespeare's Latinate Neologisms"[7] and "Latin-Saxon Hybrids in Shakespeare and the Bible."[8][9][10][11][12][13] After seeing an early draft of his undergraduate work, linguist Thomas Cable declared, "Let's give him a Ph.D!"

After receiving his B.A. degree, Garner entered the University of Texas School of Law, where he served as an associate editor of the Texas Law Review. After receiving his J.D. degree in 1984, he clerked for Judge Thomas M. Reavley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit before joining the Dallas firm of Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, where he worked as a litigation associate from 1985 to 1988. He then returned to the University of Texas School of Law as a visiting associate professor of law and was named director of the Texas/Oxford Center for Legal Lexicography, while teaching upper-division seminars on writing and editing at the law school. In 1990, he left the University to found LawProse Inc., a Dallas firm that provides seminars on clear writing for lawyers and judges and offers consulting services on appellate and high-stakes briefing and revising corporate and other legal documents.[14]

Garner has taught at the University of Texas School of Law, the University of California at Berkeley (Boalt Hall), Texas Tech University School of Law, and Texas A&M University School of Law. He has been awarded three honorary doctorates (Stetson, La Verne, and Thomas M. Cooley Law School).


As a student at the University of Texas School of Law in 1981, Garner began noticing odd usages in lawbooks—many of them dating back to Shakespeare. These became the source material for his first book, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage.[15] That book was published by Oxford University Press in 1987 and is now in its third edition (published in 2011 and retitled Garner's Dictionary of Legal Usage). Since 1990, his main work has been teaching seminars such as Advanced Legal Writing and Editing, Advanced Legal Drafting, and The Winning Brief. Garner has also created many online seminars on writing and advocacy.[16] Since 2006, Garner has interspersed in his lectures numerous video clips from the dozens of judges he has interviewed on the art of writing and on advocacy. In 2006–2007, he interviewed eight of the nine Justices of the United States Supreme Court.[17] Since then, he has interviewed a ninth: Justice Elena Kagan. All his Supreme Court interviews are available online.[18] When these interviews first appeared in print, they were featured on the front page of the New York Times.[19] In addition, Garner has interviewed circuit judges on all the federal circuits. He has compiled an extensive archive of what American judges in the early 21st century say about effective writing and advocacy.

On July 8, 2001, the New York Times ran a front-page Sunday article about a controversy that had emerged as a result of Garner's teachings.[20] In books, articles,[21] [22][23][24][25] and lectures, Garner has tried to reform the way bibliographic references are "interlarded" (i.e., interwoven) in the midst of textual analysis. He argues for putting citations in footnotes while noting in-text information that is important but non-bibliographic. He opposes references such as "457 U.S. 423, 432, 102 S.Ct. 2515, 2521, 89 L.Ed.2d 744, 747" as interruptions in the middle of a line. To this day, however, such interruptions in judges' opinions and in lawyers' briefs remain the norm. Some courts and advocates around the country have begun adopting Garner's recommended style of footnoted citations, and a surprising degree of internal strife has resulted within some organizations. For example, one appellate judge in Louisiana refused to join in a colleague's opinions written in the new format.[20] Garner says that one of the main reasons for the reform is to make legal writing more comprehensible to readers who lack a legal education. But he has attracted vehement opposition, most notably from Judge Richard A. Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit,[26] and from his co-author, Justice Antonin Scalia.[27]

Garner has contributed to the field of procedural rules. From 1992 to 1994, he revised all amendments to the sets of Federal Rules—Civil, Appellate, Evidence, Bankruptcy, and Criminal—for the United States Judicial Conference. In the mid-1990s, he restyled the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which were adopted by the Judicial Conference, then by the United States Supreme Court, and enacted by Congress. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were restyled in 1993–1994 and adopted on December 1, 2007. The Administrative Office of the United States Courts has printed and distributed Garner's booklet Guidelines for Drafting and Editing Court Rules (1st ed. 1996, 5th ed. 2007).[2] Garner has revised the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure, the California Rules of Appellate Procedure, the California Judicial Council Rules, the Local Rules of the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, and the Rules on Judicial-Conduct and Disability Proceedings (for federal courts).[citation needed] In 2015, after a 15-year hiatus, he returned as a style consultant to the U.S. Judicial Conference's Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure.

Since 2012, Garner has had a monthly column in the American Bar Association Journal.[28][29] Since 1999, he has had a similar column in the ABA's Student Lawyer.[29]

Garner and Justice Antonin Scalia wrote Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges (2008) during the year 2007 and Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts (2012) from 2009 to 2012. They made many joint presentations to bar associations and other groups since July 2008, when they first appeared together in a five-hour seminar at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. They also appeared together on CBS's 60 Minutes[30] and CNN's Piers Morgan Live.[31] Garner maintains a legal consulting practice, serving as co-counsel on many appellate matters, especially those involving statutory construction and contractual interpretation.

English grammar and usage

Garner's books on English usage include Garner's Modern English Usage. When the University of Chicago Press published the 15th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style in 2003, he contributed a chapter on grammar and usage. He is one of only two authors of a section in The Chicago Manual of Style. His chapter concentrates on traditional English grammar, with its eight parts of speech. The linguist Geoffrey K. Pullum, who wondered why a professional linguist was not invited to write the chapter,[32] had this criticism of the 15th edition:

His chapter is unfortunately full of repetitions of stupidities of the past tradition in English grammar — more of them than you could shake a stick at... . [O]n page 177 he appears to claim that progressive clauses are always active (making clauses like 'Our premises are being renovated' impossible); on page 179 he states that English verbs have seven inflected forms, including a present subjunctive, a past subjunctive, and an imperative (utter nonsense);...[32]

In defense of Garner, copy editor John E. McIntyre wrote,

As much as people need description of how language works and how people are using it, they also want instruction in how they ought to use it for particular purposes, mainly the niceties of standard written English for publication. Bryan Garner meets a deeply felt need, and he does so responsibly.[33]

Black's Law Dictionary

In 1995, Garner became the editor in chief of Black's Law Dictionary. Since 1995, Garner has overhauled the book over the course of four unabridged editions (7th–10th). He created a panel of international legal experts to improve all the specialized vocabulary in the book, including Roman law, international law, and transactional terminology. With the help of these experts, Garner and his team have rewritten the entire dictionary and added tens of thousands of new entries, amplifying many with dates of linguistic origin; supplementary usage, historical, or other lexicographic information; and exemplary quotations drawn from myriad sources in the literature on Anglo-American law—some as early as the 16th century.

Books by Garner

Showing current editions only.

  • The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation (2016; an expanded version of his chapter in The Chicago Manual of Style)
  • Garner's Modern English Usage (4th ed. 2016)
  • The Rules of Golf in Plain English (with Jeffrey S. Kuhn, 4th ed. 2016)
  • Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014; abr. 10th ed. 2015; and 5th pocket ed. 2016)
  • Guidelines for Drafting and Editing Legislation (2015)[3]
  • The Winning Brief: 100 Tips for Persuasive Briefing in Trial and Appellate Courts (3rd ed. 2014)
  • HBR Guide to Better Business Writing (2013)
  • Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text with Exercises (2nd ed. 2013)
  • Quack This Way: David Foster Wallace & Bryan A. Garner Talk Language and Writing (transcript of an interview with David Foster Wallace, 2013). RosePen Books. ISBN 9780991118113
  • The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (3rd ed. 2013)
  • Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts (with Justice Antonin Scalia, 2012)
  • Garner's Dictionary of Legal Usage (3rd ed. 2011)
  • The Chicago Manual of Style, Ch. 5 "Grammar and Usage," (16th ed. 2010)
  • Ethical Communications for Lawyers: Upholding Professional Responsibility (2009). LawProse, Inc. ISBN 9780979606021
  • Garner on Language and Writing: Selected Essays and Speeches of Bryan A. Garner (foreword by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 2009). American Bar Association. ISBN 9781604424454
  • The Winning Oral Argument: Enduring Principles with Supporting Comments from the Literature (2nd ed. 2009)
  • Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges (with Justice Antonin Scalia, 2008)
  • A New Miscellany-at-Law: Yet Another Diversion for Lawyers and Others (by Robert Megarry, Garner ed., 2005). Hart. ISBN 9781584776314
  • The Elements of Legal Style (2nd ed. 2002)
  • Guidelines for Drafting and Editing Court Rules (2002)[2]
  • A Handbook of Family Law Terms (2001). West Group. ISBN 9780314249067
  • A Handbook of Criminal Law Terms (2000). West Group. ISBN 9780314243225
  • The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style (2000; an abridged version of A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, 1st ed. 1998)
  • A Handbook of Basic Law Terms (1999). West Group. ISBN 9780314233820
  • A Handbook of Business Law Terms (1999). West Group. ISBN 9780314239358
  • Securities Disclosure in Plain English (1999). CCH Inc. ISBN 9780808003212
  • Texas, Our Texas: Remembrances of The University (1984). ISBN 9780890154489 (editor)

See also


  1. ^ "Books by Bryan A. Garner". Retrieved 2016-07-06. 
  2. ^ a b c Garner, Bryan A. (2007). Guidelines for Drafting and Editing Court Rules (PDF) (5th ed.). Washington, D.C.: Administrative Office of the United States Courts. 
  3. ^ a b Garner, Bryan A. (2015). Guidelines for Drafting and Editing Legislation. Dallas: RosePen Books. ISBN 9780979606069. 
  4. ^ "Who is Bryan Garner". Retrieved 2015-12-06. 
  5. ^ "Bryan A. Garner". SMU Dedman School of Law. Retrieved 2016-07-06. 
  6. ^ "Lubbock, Texas". Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  7. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (1982). "Shakespeare's Latinate Neologisms". Shakespeare Studies. 15: 149–70. 
  8. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (June 1983). "Latin-Saxon Hybrids in Shakespeare and the Bible". Studies in the Humanities. 10: 39–44. 
  9. ^ John W. Velz, Looking Back at Some Turns in the Road, in Burnt Orange Britannia (Wm. Roger Louis ed., 2005), at 390, 400.
  10. ^ Stowers, Carlton (19–25 July 2001). "Courtly Language". Dallas Observer. pp. 20–21. 
  11. ^ Kruh, Nancy (9 May 1999). "Bryan Garner: The Lawyer and Lexicographer Is a Man of His Words". Dallas Morning News. pp. E1, 4–5. 
  12. ^ Kix, Paul (November 2007). "The English Teacher". D Magazine. pp. 41–44. 
  13. ^ Moore, Dave (5–11 October 2007). "On a Language Quest". Dallas Business Journal: 37, 42–43. 
  14. ^ "Consulting". Retrieved 2016-07-06. 
  15. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (1987). A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195043774. 
  16. ^ "On-Demand (Self-Paced) Courses". Retrieved 2016-07-06. 
  17. ^ These interviews are accessible in full at
  18. ^ "Garner's Interviews". Retrieved 2015-12-06. 
  19. ^ Liptak, Adam (2011-05-20). "Keep the Briefs Brief, Literary Justices Advise". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-12-06. 
  20. ^ a b Glaberson, William (8 July 2001). "Legal Citations1 on Trial in Innovation v. Tradition". The New York Times. pp. 1, 16. 
  21. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (September 2003). "Footnoted Citations Can Make Memos and Briefs Easier to Comprehend". Student Lawyer: 11–12. 
  22. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (2004). The Winning Brief (2 ed.). pp. 139–158. 
  23. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (2001). Legal Writing in Plain English. pp. 77–83. 
  24. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (1995). A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage (2 ed.). p. 156. 
  25. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (2002). The Elements of Legal Style (2 ed.). pp. 91–92. 
  26. ^ Richard A. Posner, "Against Footnotes", 38 Court Rev. 24 (Summer 2001) (answering Garner, "Clearing the Cobwebs from Judicial Opinions", 38 Court Rev. 4 (Summer 2001)).
  27. ^ Scalia, Antonin; Garner, Bryan A. (2008). Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges. West. pp. 132–35. 
  28. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (1 October 2014). "10 tips for better legal writing". ABA Journal. Retrieved 6 December 2015. 
  29. ^ a b Garner, Bryan A. "Articles by Bryan Garner — LawProse". LawProse. Retrieved 6 December 2015. 
  30. ^ "Scalia: Supreme Court disagreements not personal". Retrieved 2015-12-06. 
  31. ^ "Piers Morgan Tonight: Justice Antonin Scalia Exclusive Interview". Retrieved 2015-12-06. 
  32. ^ a b Pullum, Geoffrey K. (2 February 2005). "Language Log: The Chicago Manual of Style — and grammar". 
  33. ^ McIntyre, John E. (27 May 2012). "Defending Bryan Garner". tribunedigital-baltimoresun. Retrieved 29 July 2017. 

External links

  • Interview [1] with Garner on KERA 90.1. The mp3 podcast of the interview is available at: 1 and Hour 2.
  • Biography at the Texas Law Review
  • "Clearing the Cobwebs on Judicial Opinion", from the Summer 2001 issue of Court Review 21
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
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