Bryan Garner: Wrong on the Internet!

I should admit upfront that I have two books by Bryan Garner - legal usage, and modern american usage - on my end table, within arm's reach. The third book is the Chicago Manual of Style.*

Today he writes that lawyers are bad writers.  This is probably true in part. Take any sample that's big enough and you can probably distribute it on something that vaguely resembles a bell curve. There are a lot of lawyers who aren't good at writing. There's a lot of any [profession] that aren't good at [supposed core competence of profession]. 

But the wrong part: lawyers are bad writers because law schools fail them, and colleges fail them. Per Garner: "Writing standards have consistently fallen over the last century in secondary and higher education."

Really? There is more good writing available right now than ever before. I have at my fingertips and in front of my eyeballs writing about nearly any topic. It's really good! When I'm looking for inspiration, I'll go back and read Lincoln. Don't tell me he was emblematic of his times though. I could just as easily look a little more recently and find a hundred wonderful authors and journalists. How have writing standards fallen? Where's the proof? Come on. If you want legal examples, I will grant that maybe our current justices can't match Holmes or Brandeis. But look a little deeper and there are a lot of judges on the federal district and appellate benches whose writing ranges from lucid to exceptional. So too for lawyers. 

* The book ends are (a) a glass polar bear, which I got with my older sister in Italy, and (b) a brass propeller nut with some barnacles, which was briefly evidence in a case, which case is a different story for a different day.