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Technical grammar, Grammar instruction


Legal Writing and Research


Three major reasons have been proposed for why legal writing professors do not—or should not—teach grammar. First, the argument goes, teaching grammar would take valuable time away from more important, higher-order writing concerns. Second, some legal writing professors do not feel comfortable teaching grammar because, while they can certainly spot grammar problems in their students’ writing, they never learned technical grammar terms themselves. Third, legal writing professors steer clear of grammar because it is perceived to be associated with remedial writing and “mere” skills teaching—associations that further confine legal writing professors to a lower academic status than their clinical and doctrinal peers.

In this article, I argue that a broader, rhetorical approach to grammar minimizes the negative associations with grammar teaching. I make the case that we shouldn’t divorce grammar from the “rest” of legal writing because grammar itself is rhetorical: necessary for and deeply tied to meaning-making and social practices. I contend that a rhetorical approach to grammar can actually enhance our field’s language-focused disciplinary identity. Moreover, I argue that a rhetorical approach to grammar will help ensure that students with diverse language practices feel included and supported, while at the same time providing all students with the linguistic-convention awareness that will allow them to write for successful legal practice. Ultimately, because grammar is foundational—constitutive of and integral to all other components of legal writing—I encourage legal writing professors to embrace grammar from a rhetorical perspective and center it as an important and intellectual part of the first-year legal writing course.


This article was published in volume 27 (2023) of Legal Writing.