New IOS App Provides Authoritative Guide for Legal Writers

Persuasive communication — both written and oral — is a core competency for anyone who works in the legal industry. When this communication is marred by improper use of language, one’s credibility suffers — a shortcoming that can make the difference between failure and success in a legal representation. That’s reason enough for top legal professionals to seek a touchstone of tried-and-true advice on language usage — and for many years that touchstone has been Garner’s Modern English Usage (GMEU).

With the publication of GMEU’s 4th Edition in 2016, this venerable publication became available in e-book form. And today GMEU is an IOS app (for both iPhone and iPad) — now available on the App Store. (An Android version of GMEU will be available “soon”, said Karolyne Cheng, General Counsel at LawProse, Prof. Garner’s entity for CLE training in legal writing and editing.

The Legal Industry’s Arbiter on English Usage

GMEU is the product of Bryan Garner, longtime legal writing expert and Editor-in-Chief of Black’s Law Dictionary. In addition to GMEU, Garner’s contributions to legal communication include numerous other popular titles such as Better Grammar for Lawyers; The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style; Modern Legal Usage; Legal Writing in Plain English; The Winning Brief; and others. Not surprisingly, Garner has earned a reputation as the legal industry’s arbiter on effective usage of the English Language.

GMEU APP: A Great Leap Forward — and Room for Improvement

So the GMEU consistently “delivers the goods” in terms of its content. What more could one hope for in this transition to an app version? In a word, design. Yes, the GMEU app is fast and efficient — and how nice to see a developer resist the temptations of gratuitous “eye candy”. (All-too-often such “improvements” to an app’s look-and-feel result in diminished utility or buggy behaviors.) The app’s minimalist design aesthetic, however, does take a toll on the user experience — chiefly in regard to legibility. By failing to provide “scalable” type, the app condemns the reader to a Hobson’s choice: Either squint to read long lines of too-small text, or use “pinch” gestures to enlarge the font size — and then constantly swipe back-and-forth on each line of type. Content this good deserves better.

Garner’s Expertise — Now Bolstered By Big Data

Some opinionated writers (perhaps you know one?) bristle at being held accountable to “correct” usage. “Who made Bryan Garner the arbiter of good English usage, anyway?” these iconoclasts complain. Well, it seems that the marketplace — and the community of English speaking writers — did just that. And with this Fourth Edition of GMEU, Prof. Garner’s authority has become even stronger — by further informing his judgments with the findings of bigdata analysis. (Here’s how the analytics work: Remember the GoogleBooks initiative — Google’s ambitious program to digitize the world’s books? This vast GoogleBooks database now is the corpus for Garner’s usage analysis. Armed with these statistics, Garner provides GMEU readers with specific ratios of “real world” preferences for various usage scenarios.) Very handy when explaining your word choice to a client or supervisor!

Why Invest In This App?

On hearing about the GMEU app (which sells for about $25) perhaps your first question will be this: “With all the free reference resources available online, why should I invest in an app?” Let’s be clear: Many writers should not make this investment; their work — or their writing standards — won’t require the expertise provided here. (Casual writers’ needs will be met — more or less — by whatever reference sites appear on page one of Google.) Another group — those writers who already have access to GMEU’s 800-page printed version — also may not need the app. (However, they must manage always to be near that weighty book whenever they need an answer regarding grammar or style.) But there is another group: Those legal professionals (and other serious writers) who immediately will grasp the benefit of having a consistent, trustworthy reference that is portable, fast, searchable, and always available — even when internet access is unavailable. If you recognize yourself in this latter group, the GMEU App is for you.

Don’t your persuasive communications skills deserve ongoing attention? Now that GMEU can be your constant companion, cultivating those skills just got a lot easier.

There’s still time for 2017 resolutions and goals. See New Year Productivity Goals for Attorneys & Legal Professionals to spur your thinking.


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