Thursday, March 27, 2008

More on questions presented

In a thoughtful comment, don has raised some valuable points about writing questions presented. My post, where you can also read don's entire comment, is here.

I want to address two topics he raised.

First, he called my approach dogmatic. I dislike being perceived as dogmatic--on most writing issues, I'm actually quite flexible. Mostly, I'm concerned with writers being informed and not hamstrung by "rules" that aren't. But as I re-read my original post, I do sound dogmatic. I'll work on it.

Second, he rightly points out that questions presented serve different functions in different documents. This I know, but my posts glossed over that. My posts were simple, not sophisticated. More on that in a moment.

For now, know this: all I really feel dogmatic about is that there should be no "rule" that all questions presented must be in a single sentence.

As to sophistication, here's a start. (There's definitely an article in this. Dibs!)

Questions presented, probably better called "issue statements," appear in many different kinds of documents, and a sophisticated writer will adapt the form, length, and sentences to the audience and the document. For example, in a persuasive brief on the merits, you should use a different approach from that used in an objective memo. The issue statement in a petition for discretionary review will take a different form from the issue statement in a client letter. And so on.

Consider these legal documents; the issue statement might take a different approach in all of them:

Client advice letter
Objective legal memo
Trial brief
Petition for discretionary review
Appellate brief on the merits
Mediation statement
Email message to a subordinate or supervisor

And more. What others can you think of?

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