Classical Persuasion Through Grammar and Punctuation

Lillian B. Hardwick

Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors, Vol. 3


In this article, I will argue that, rather than merely the foundation for the «larger issues of rhetoric and persuasion,» grammar and punctuation themselves are rhetorical avenues. Because «rhetoric» is a synonym for «persuasion» in classical terms, to say that one results in the other is almost redundant. But the use of rhetoric as a path is supported by Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric as «the faculty [power] of discovering in the particular case what are the available means of persuasion.» Although Aristotle and others in Greece who sought to persuade did so orally, the rhetorical means they advocated are recognized as essential to the writing created by lawyers. Due to their prominence in writing, errors in grammar and punctuation create interference with communication and persuasion, if not an unbridgeable gulf between legal author and audience. While this effect is not limited to trial lawyers, the mistakes that trial lawyers generate and litigate demonstrate why all lawyers who seek to persuade should be at least as precise in writing as they are in oral argument.

Classical Persuasion Through Grammar and Punctuation

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