The skewed perspective of a conservative Catholic employee-side employment lawyer living in the most exciting city in the Milky Way, Las Vegas, Nevada USA, who listens to a lot of really strange music and who, for some reason, lives and dies St. Louis Cardinal baseball

2/25/2005

Why I love Peggy Noonan (first of a continuing series)

Lawyers generally are writers, by trade, for more than they are talkers. Some areas of the law -- high volume criminal prosecution or defense, family/domestic -- may be better suited for people who can speak well on the fly. But for especially those of us who practice in federal court, the quality of the written product is more important.

How do you improve the quality of your own writing? By reading good writing.

One of the best writers working today is Peggy Noonan. This piece from yesterday's Opinion Journal is representative of the extraordinary quality of her work. Her writing style is best described as "conversational," and that's a powerful way to write (if you can pull it off). I have seen her interviewed on TV a few times, as I have many other writers. There is no writer writing today whose own voice comes through so clearly in his or her writing. And this, in my opinion, is the most persuasive way to write a legal argument: a conversation with the Judge, not a shouting match with opposing counsel.

You read Peggy Noonan and all you can hear is her smooth, whispery voice gently but firmly talking to you. What is interesting, indeed ironic, is that she was such a talented speechwriter for others, crafting speeches for Ronald Reagan that were distinctly written for the President's own voice. Yet, when writing under her own name, the voice is pure Peggy. The tone, the cadence, the emphasis: each word is written just as it would be spoken by her. No false notes, no jarring disruptions made for the appearance of "cleverness." Just a pleasant one-way conversation.

Every article from her is a two-fer. Not only do we get to hear her insight into important matters of politics, culture or religion, but we get a clinic in writing technique. It's why we all should love (and appreciate) Peggy Noonan.
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