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What is the ‘It’?

A Handbook for Proofing Court Judgments






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AUD $69.95 gst included

Each year sees a fresh intake of judges’ associates to Australia’s courts. The proofing of judgments before publication is one of the most important of the many jobs they will be asked to do. It is also one of the most difficult. And yet the associate might have little or no experience in this task, and is likely to receive little, if any, training. This book exists to fill that gap.

Proofing isn’t just reading the judgment. It requires a particular mindset. It calls for focus and concentration, and attention to detail. And you have to know what you are looking for. This book highlights techniques for proofing a judgment effectively, things to watch out for, and traps that are easy to fall into. It also identifies many types of structural errors and ambiguities that appear frequently in judgments, and answers citation questions that won’t necessarily be addressed by the court style guide.

You will never look at the word “it” in the same way again.

The author is uniquely positioned to write this book, having worked closely with a generation of associates to High Court judges. In a sense, the book is a distillation of all of the conversations he has had, and the questions he has most frequently found himself answering, over that time.

Although the book is primarily addressed to judges’ associates, it will also be an invaluable resource for administrative decision-makers, arbitrators, barristers, law academics, and anybody who is involved in legal writing or editing.

During my time as an associate, Stan was a seemingly infinite source of wisdom about proofreading, grammar and good legal writing. He was also uncommonly patient and kind towards a succession of new associates who were learning the ropes. My own memory is that we spent more time talking about “that” than “it”, but the title of this book remains a very apt one. Without exaggeration, I use things I learnt from Stan every day in my practice at the Bar, and I am a better lawyer because of him. I am sure that this will be a valuable book for both judicial associates and anyone interested in legal drafting.

Alison Hammond, Barrister, Sydney (former High Court Associate)

Stan Emmerson’s skill at proofreading is second only to the great J D Merralls AM QC. Like when dealing with Merralls, what you learn from Stan is not just how to proofread a judgment but how to read and understand it. That is something deserving of a book, and we’re all of us lucky Stan has written it.

Christopher Tran, Barrister, Melbourne (former High Court Associate)

Stan is the undisputed master of all things proofing: his vast knowledge of grammar, style, citation rules, and the month and year of each Chief Justice’s appointment is exceeded only by his practical skills in applying that knowledge to improve and clarify the High Court’s judgments. Anything Stan has to say about the art and process of proofing a judgment will be essential knowledge for any judicial assistant.

– Stephen Lloyd, Partner, Sydney (former High Court Associate)

Stan Emmerson’s abilities as a proofreader are legendary.  So much so that one former High Court judge attributed to him the capacity to recognise in any given block of text an italicised space.  Whether or not that is so, Stan has a remarkable talent for identifying inadvertent or latent ambiguity in a text and suggesting a revision that makes the writer’s intended meaning readily apparent to any reader.  This book sets out the methods that Stan has developed in applying this skill over many years to High Court judgments.  It will be useful not only for tipstaves and associates but for anyone who prizes clarity of expression in legal writing.

Luca Moretti, Barrister, Sydney (former High Court Associate)

1. Hi, how are you?
2. Manifesto
3. Mistakes were made
4. Are you the brain specialist?
5. What we talk about when we talk about proofing
6. This is the way
7. Everything you always wanted to know about referencing (but were afraid to ask)
8. When good sentences go bad
9. Word up!
10. The style council

Read the Foreword by The Hon Susan Kiefel AC, Chief Justice of Australia, from What is the ‘It’?

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