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Bryan A. Garner (born November 17, 1958, in Lubbock, Texas) is a U.S. lawyer, a lexicographer, a teacher who has written several books about English usage and style, and the founder of LawProse, Inc. He is the author of Garner's Modern American Usage and editor in chief of all current editions of Black's Law Dictionary. He is also an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University Law School.



Garner attended Canyon High School in Canyon, Texas, and then the University of Texas at Austin. Garner published excerpts from his senior thesis, notably "Shakespeare's Latinate Neologisms," and "Latin-Saxon Hybrids in Shakespeare and the Bible."[1] These essays have been not only published but anthologized in various sources.[2][3][4][5]


At the University of Texas School of Law in 1981, Garner began noticing odd usages in the lawbooks—many of them dating back to Shakespeare—and he decided to include them in his first real book, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage. That book was published by Oxford University Press in 1987. In 1991, Garner founded LawProse, Inc., a Dallas company that provides seminars on writing for lawyers and judges throughout the United States. The company offers seminars called Advanced Legal Writing & Editing, Advanced Legal Drafting, The Winning Brief, and Advanced Judicial Writing. Like much of Garner's work, the seminars aim to increase the clarity of legal and judicial writing.

On July 8, 2001, The New York Times ran a front-page Sunday article about a minor controversy that has emerged as a result of Garner's teachings.[6 ] In various books and articles,.[7][8][9][10][11] as well as in his lectures, Garner has agitated to reform the way bibliographic references are interlarded in the midst of textual analysis. He argues for putting citations in footnotes while noting in the text the important nonbibliographic information. 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. But in judges' opinions and in lawyers' briefs, such interruptions are 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 the organizations where the change is taking place. For example, one appellate judge in Louisiana refused to join in a colleague's opinions written in the new format.[6 ] Garner says that one of the main reasons for the reform is to make legal writing more understandable to readers without a legal education. Yet he has attracted vehement opposition, most notably from Judge Richard A. Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.[12]

Undoubtedly the most obscure contribution that Garner has made to American law is in the field of procedural rules. In 1992, he revised all amendments to the various sets of Federal Rules—Civil, Appellate, Evidence, Bankruptcy, and Criminal—by the United States Judicial Conference. In the early 1990s, he restyled the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which were adopted by the Judicial Conference, adopted 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. 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 most recently the Rules on Judicial-Conduct and Disability Proceedings (for federal courts).

Since 2006, Garner has interspersed in his lectures numerous video clips from the many 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. These interviews are accessible in full at In addition, Garner has interviewed circuit judges on every federal circuit in the country. The purpose of these interviews, he has reported, is to create an archive of what American judges in the early part of the 21st century believe about effective writing and advocacy.


English Grammar and Usage

Garner is also a grammarian and has written books on general English usage, including Garner's Modern American Usage. When the University of Chicago Press undertook the 15th edition of the influential Chicago Manual of Style, Garner contributed a chapter on grammar and usage. At 95 pages, that section of the book (Chapter 5) is an accessible, readable explanation of the principles of traditional grammar.

Selected Bibliography

Articles about Garner

  • David Foster Wallace, Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage, Harper's Magazine, April 2001, pp. 39-58; repr. more fully in Wallace's book Consider the Lobster (2005).
  • Editor's Column: Bryan Garner Counsels Appellate Lawyers and Judges on Effective Legal Writing (interview by Dorothy Easner), The Record, Winter 2005, pp. 20–22.
  • Johnston, Bar Leader, July-Aug. 1991, pp. 24–25, 27.
  • Brett Campbell, Songs in the Key of Law, Barrister, 22 Sept. 1989, pp. 14ff.
  • Horne, The American Lawyer, Dec. 1988, p. 102.
  • High Profiles, Dallas Morning News, 16 Dec. 1987, p. H1.
  • Laura Mansnerus, Lawyer Talk? You Could Look It Up, The New York Times, 11 Dec. 1987, at B8.

See also

External links


  1. ^ John W. Velz, Looking Back at Some Turns in the Road, in Burnt Orange Britannia (Wm. Roger Louis ed., 2005), at 390, 400.
  2. ^ Carlton Stowers, Courtly Language, Dallas Observer, 19-25 July 2001, pp. 20–21.
  3. ^ Nancy Kruh, Bryan Garner: The Lawyer and Lexicographer Is a Man of His Words, Dallas Morning News, 9 May 1999, High Profile §, pp. E1, 4–5.
  4. ^ Paul Kix, The English Teacher, D Magazine, Nov. 2007, at 41-44.
  5. ^ Dave Moore, On a Language Quest, Dallas Business Journal, Oct. 5-11, 2007, at 37, 42-43.
  6. ^ a b William Glaberson, Legal Citations1 on Trial in Innovation v. Tradition, The New York Times, 8 July 2001, pp. 1, 16.
  7. ^ Bryan A. Garner, Footnoted Citations Can Make Memos and Briefs Easier to Comprehend, Student Lawyer, Sept. 2003, pp. 11–12.
  8. ^ Bryan A. Garner, The Winning Brief (2d ed. 2004), at 139-158.
  9. ^ Bryan A. Garner, Legal Writing in Plain English (2001), at 77-83.
  10. ^ Bryan A. Garner, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage (2d ed. 1995), at 156.
  11. ^ Bryan A. Garner, The Elements of Legal Style (2d. ed. 2002), at 91-92.
  12. ^ Richard A. Posner, Against Footnotes, 38 Court Rev. 24 (Summer 2001)(answering Garner, Clearing the Coverbs from Judicial Opinions, 38 Court Rev. 4 (Summer 2001)).


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