Write On!, 0421 WYBJ, Vol. 44 No. 2. 50

PositionVol. 44 2 Pg. 50

Write On!

No. Vol. 44 No. 2 Pg. 50

Wyoming Bar Journal

April, 2021

Traits of Credibility, Part 6: The Dual Benefits of “Intelligent” Writing

This article is the sixth and final installment of my series on ethos, which I have defined as the process by which a legal writer enhances his or her persuasiveness by establishing credibility in the eyes of the reader. In this series, we have explored in detail how a legal writer can be more persuasive by effectively evincing and projecting the three primary components of credibility: character, good will, and intelligence. In Part 5 of this series, I began the discussion of intelligence as credibility.[1] There, we saw that “[an advocate] who is perceived to be intelligent and authoritative will generally be more persuasive.”[2] Here, as a wrap-up to this series, I explain generally how “intelligent” writing actually serves two separate persuasive functions, namely a logos (substantive) function and an ethos (credibility) function. First, as we will see, good legal writing persuades through logos because it allows the writer to communicate the substance of an argument more powerfully and clearly. Second, as we will also see, good legal writing persuades through ethos because good writing requires intelligence, and evincing intelligence bolsters a writer’s credibility as a trustworthy source of information.

In my Advanced Legal Writing textbook, I identify and dissect 11 traits of intelligence an effective advocate projects through his or her writing.[3] Here, I offer a summary of those traits along with an explanation of how the manifestation of these traits serves both logos and ethos functions.

1. Informed. An effective legal writer is first and foremost an informed writer. An informed legal writer manifests a “comprehensive understanding of the facts of the matter, the relevant law, and any non-legal sources (such as scientific studies and articles) that may be relevant to the matter.”[4] Such mastery serves a dominant logos function because it allows the writer to explain logically why his or her position is accurate based on the relevant facts and authorities. It also serves an ethos function because a mastery of the relevant information is a compelling indication of trustworthy intelligence.

2. Adept at Legal Research. An effective legal writer also incorporates relevant authorities (both binding and persuasive) into an...

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