The New Greenbook

Texas Rules of Form (14th ed. 2018). Key takeaways:

  • All courts of appeals are cited as Tex. App.
  • No publisher-date parenthetical for statutes currently in force

A new edition of Texas Rules of Form—The Greenbook—just came out in August. The 14th edition has some changes you’ll want to know about if you cite Texas authorities. I summarize the key changes below. But first, why change The Greenbook?

The Texas Law Review editors in charge of the 14th edition were determined to improve The Greenbook and to address concerns raised by practicing lawyers, law librarians, and legal educators. So they created an extensive online survey that asked about nearly every citation convention in the manual; the survey also solicited suggestions for improvement. They received hundreds of responses and ultimately made several changes intended to improve the manual. Here are the main changes.

Layout upgrade

The first thing you’ll notice is the look of the text, which I consider an improvement. The 14th edition uses a contrasting font for major headings and examples and places rule numbers in the left margin. These design elements make the text easier to read and easier to skim.

Tex. Civ. App. goes away

For all intermediate appellate court cases, the correct abbreviation for the court is now Tex. App. because the 14th edition has abandoned Tex. Civ. App. See Rule 4.2. In case you’d forgotten: before September 1, 1981, Texas’s intermediate appellate courts had no criminal jurisdiction and heard only civil cases. They were known as courts of civil appeals and were abbreviated Tex. Civ. App. After these courts gained criminal jurisdiction, they became the courts of appeals, and in a full-citation are abbreviated Tex. App. The 14th edition has done away with this distinction, so all courts of appeals are cited as Tex. App.

Old form: Key v. Plant, 500 S.W.2d 233 (Tex. Civ. App.—Austin 1973, writ dism’d)
New form: Key v. Plant, 500 S.W.2d 233 (Tex. App.—Austin 1973, writ dism’d)

Statutory publisher and year disappear

When citing a Texas statute in full form, The Bluebook and previous Greenbook editions require you to include a parenthetical containing the publisher (West) and the date (the copyright year of the print volume in which the statute appears). But the 14th edition does away with that requirement. See Rules 10.1 and 10.2. For statutes currently in force, the 14th edition drops the publisher-date parenthetical.

This change was probably motivated in part by feedback The Greenbook’s editors received on their survey. But I’ll bet it was equally motivated by their own headaches in hunting down the Vernon’s print volume to find the right date. This change is eminently wise and is one my legal-writing colleagues and I have been hoping would come to pass. Here’s what it looks like:

Old form: Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 26.06(a) (West 2014)
New form: Tex. Tax Code Ann. § 26.06(a)

Now, if we could just get The Bluebook editors to be similarly sensible.

Noting adopted opinions of the Commission of Appeals

Fully adopted opinions of the Texas Commission of Appeals were formerly cited as if they were originally Texas Supreme Court opinions, like this:

Old form: Cheney v. Coffey, 114 S.W.2d 533 (Tex. 1938)

But the 14th edition in Rule 5.2.2 now requires that the adoption be indicated in the court-date parenthetical, like this:

New form: Cheney v. Coffey, 114 S.W.2d 533 (Tex. [Comm’n Op.] 1938)

This is another sensible change. Ultimately, I like the new Greenbook, and I approve of the editors’ changes. Here’s hoping you’ll approve, too.

Texting and Legal Writing: Survey Results

Althoughh 86 responses is not a large number, the results are interesting and align with what I would expect.

1. Broadly speaking, what type of legal practice are you engaged in?
Litigation 62.79% 54
Transactions 13.95% 12
General practice 2.33% 2
Administrative law 9.30% 8
Other 11.63% 10
Total 100% 86

2. In a professional capacity, how much do you use texting (or something comparable to texting but not email)?
Heavily 9.30% 8
Moderately 20.93% 18
Rarely 60.47% 52
Never 9.30% 8
Total 100% 86

3. In a professional capacity, do you text mostly colleagues, opposing lawyers, or clients?
Mostly colleagues 60.47% 52
Mostly opposing lawyers 0.00% 0
Mostly clients 3.49% 3
Mostly colleagues and opposing lawyers 4.65% 4
Mostly colleagues and clients 19.77% 17
Mostly opposing lawyers and clients 0.00% 0
None of the above or I don’t text in a professional capacity 11.63% 10
Total 100% 86

4. In a professional capacity, do you ever convey legal analysis, legal advice, legal judgment, or comparable content by texting?
Yes, often 3.53% 3
Yes, occasionally 11.76% 10
Yes, rarely 29.41% 25
No, or don’t text in a professional capacity 55.29% 47
Total 100% 86

5. Should a law school first-year legal-writing course address texting?
Yes, cover it thoroughly. 4.65% 4
Yes, cover it briefly. 58.14% 50
No, don’t cover it. 30.23% 26
Don’t have an opinion. 6.98% 6
Total 100% 86

14 editing tips

Lawyers are professional writers, so they’re professional editors, too. Here are some editing tips I’ve gleaned from experience and the sources cited at the bottom. Send your tips to wayne@legalwriting.net

  1. Admit that bad writing becomes good and good writing becomes great only through editing.
  2. Start composing (writing the first draft) earlier, without waiting to be finished with the research.
  3. Compose freely—avoid editing while composing.
  4. Build in ample time for editing—some suggest half the time on the project—and get in the habit of leaving a lot of time for editing.
  5. Use multiple techniques to trick your mind into not being familiar with your own writing: read aloud, edit from the end to the beginning, edit from the middle to the end and then from the beginning to the middle, edit one line (as opposed to sentence) at a time.
  6. Do some editing in print and some on a screen.
  7. When editing on a screen, alter the line breaks (squeeze in the margins) or enlarge the display size to make the text look less familiar.
  8. Take multiple passes and avoid trying to edit for everything at once: devote each editorial pass to a particular editing task, find or create an approach to editing in stages or passes, be sure the passes address both large-scale and small-scale matters, be sure the passes address both professional legal English prose and legal authority (and citations if any).
  9. Employ an editing checklist—a list of mistakes you make, of required parts the document needs, and of formatting and other matters to check: find a recommended editing checklist or create your own. As you master certain techniques and eliminate those glitches from your drafts, delete them, move on to other matters, and add them to your evolving checklist.
  10. Use the Search or Find function to search the document for every instance of various items, verifying that each is correct: search for every apostrophe, search for every quotation mark, search for every colon, search for every semicolon, search for every instance of –ly (thereby locating many adverbs and giving yourself a chance to eliminate weak adverbs). Add searches that are tailored to your writing or to the particular document.
  11. Employ the spell-checker effectively: learn its settings and set them to your preferences.
  12. Employ the grammar-checker wisely: change its settings and identify the things it’s good at detecting and the things it’s terrible at.
  13. Ask a trusted colleague to edit the document.
  14. Use a commercial application to help you edit.

Sources

Stephen V. Armstrong & Timothy P. Terrell, Thinking Like a Writer

Michael H. Frost & Paul A. Bateman, Writing Deskbook for Administrative Judges

Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage

Debra Hart May, Proofreading, Plain and Simple

Megan McAlpin, Beyond the First Draft

Wayne Schiess & Elana Einhorn, The Five-Pass Approach to Appellate Editing, 27 Appellate Advocate 41 (2015)

Is “herein” ambiguous?

Apparently so. Although the case law is sparse, herein has been construed to mean the individual section in which herein appears but also the entire document in which the section containing herein appears. Context dictates.

  • In a section of the Los Angeles city charter, the word herein referred only to the section in which the word herein appeared and not to the charter as a whole. City of Los Angeles v. Layton, 75 Cal. Rptr. 143, 145 (Ct. App. 1969).
  • In a will, the word herein referred to the whole will and not to the individual section in which the word herein appeared. Taylor v. Albree, 56 N.E.2d 904, 909 (Mass. 1944).
  • The word herein referred only to the statutory section in which it appeared, and not to the entire article in which that section appeared. Sharp v. Tulsa Cty. Election Bd., 890 P.2d 836, 841 (Okla. 1994), as supplemented on reh’g (Jan. 31, 1995).

So be careful, drafters.

If you’re able, maybe change herein to

  • in this section
  • in this agreement
  • in this statute
  • in this will

Even better, but trickier if you’re relying heavily on a form, maybe change herein to

  • in section 4

MS Word can create automatically update-able cross references if you want it to.