Scalia & Garner: Never say never

So I’ve finally gotten around to reading “Making Your Case”, Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner’s book on effective advocacy. There’s a lot of really good stuff in the book (which I highly recommend), and it occurred to me that some f the better bits were worth sharing here, so I’ve decided to try and post a daily excerpts as I work my way through the book. For today:

Scrupulous accuracy consists not merely in never making a statement you know to be incorrect … but also in never making a statement you are not certain is correct. So err, if you must, on the side of understatement, and flee hyperbole. Since absolute negatives are hard to prove, and hence hard to be sure of, you should rarely permit yourself an unqualified “never.” Preface a clause like “Such a suit has never been brough in this jurisdiction” with an introductory phrase like “As far as we have been able to discover, ….”

“Making Your Case”, pp. 14-15.

Good advice for any forum where advocary is involved, whether its in court, in political debate, or an argument with your spouse. Unless you’re certain, try and avoid the absolutes, such as never, always, and the like, since proof of a single counter-example can fatally undermine your credibility.


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