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Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Tactical Writing

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Name a more famous Supreme Court Justice.

I’ll wait....

She has a reputation as a trailblazing woman on the Supreme Court, but how did she get there?

She was a devastatingly effective writer.

Knowing your Audience

RBG wrote tactically, and focused on her audience. When litigating Women’s Rights cases at the ACLU, she would select cases where men were discriminated against to show gender discrimination hurt everyone… and maybe to get some sympathy from the then all male Supreme Court.

She won five out of six cases she argued. She knew what made her audience tick and wrote to them with her goal in mind.

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Writing to be Understood

How useful are your best ideas if you can’t explain them to anyone?

RBG wrote to convey meaning. For example, “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes, is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

A beautiful analogy that smacks you over the head and makes you chuckle a bit.

RBG’s secret sauce to being understood was a combination of vivid imagery and concise writing in plain english. She wrote to have every sentence understood in one pass. Avoiding technical jargon and legalese whenever possible.

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