On-line version ISSN 1466-3597
De Jure (Pretoria) vol.46 n.3 Pretoria Mar. 2013
Our world is one of increasing simplicity when it comes to creating and representing information in a tangible form. Think of the applications for your smart phone or tablet computer that allow you to communicate with others through a picture alone, or by simply updating a status or sending a short information burst into the universe containing no more than 140 characters.
We have trimmed down our daily communications to almost Spartan levels. While this is definitely economic and does save time, it is unfortunate that this form of instant gratification communication does nothing to promote the art of writing well.
The act of writing is as much a part of a successful career in law as being able to think fast and speak well. However, the art of writing well is what sets apart the average and everyday from the exceptional. You may have a keen legal mind, and an exceptionally insightful grasp of your chosen field - but it will be futile if you are unable to transfer this knowledge in a concise, useful way.
Unfortunately writing skill is no longer a discipline that is focussed on very much in undergraduate studies. This makes the prospect of further studies daunting and dissuades many students who would otherwise have something to offer the legal world.
Now the question arises: How do you master the art of writing well? I have found it to be a time consuming project, for which there are no short cuts. There is however a failsafe way of improving your skill - read what others have written. Infuse your mind with well phrased and detailed arguments and ask yourself what elements of the piece make it successful. I am of the opinion that the path that leads to greater writing skill, runs straight through the process of reading well written pieces.
This does not mean that economy of words is a negative thing, but there is a difference between a well thought out economically unadorned writing style, and text so sparse that it leaves the reader unfulfilled because the author was simply not interested in illustrating his opinion with more that the most basic of words. Ernest Hemingway, that great proponent of economic writing still had the ability to take your breath away with a single sentence. As with all aspects of the law, this is a very fine balancing act. Finding the perfect combination of personal expression and honest simplicity will take practice, but Marcus Fabius Quintilianus put it so well when he said "Write quickly, and you will never write well; write well and you will soon write quickly".
In this third volume of De Jure for 2013 we have a wide variety of interesting and thought provoking contributions in the form of articles, case discussions and notes from local and international authors.
I trust that our readers, in all their differing stages on the road to exceptional legal writing will be able to take something positive away from this volume.