Judge Gorsuch’s Writing Style: A Cheat Sheet

I have longer pieces about the major strengths and minor weaknesses of Judge Neil Gorsuch’s opinion writing style. But if you’re one of those many people who really want to know whether Judge Gorsuch uses an Oxford comma or whether he puts one space or two after periods, read on!

Let’s start with the biggest controversies . . .

Oxford comma?

One space or two after periods?

After colons?

Does he really use contractions?
Yes, relentlessly. Even when you wouldn’t typically see a contraction if it were nonlegal writing.

Right margin: flush or ragged?

Looks like 14-point Times New Roman to me.

How does he make singular nouns ending in -s possessive?
Like most Justices, but unlike Paul Clement: “Congress’s.”

“He”? “She”? “He or she”?
He sometimes uses “she” to refer to something generic like “a user.” That’s not so common among conservative judges.

No “they” for anything singular, including collective nouns such as the name of a company: “Microsoft” is an “it,” not a “they.”

Moving on . . .

Does he start sentences with “But” and “And”?

How about with “So”?

Does he write sentence fragments?
Yes, perhaps too many.

How about one-word sentences?
Yes. Example: “Maybe.”

One-sentence paragraphs?

Does he incorporate questions?
Yes, many.

Are they rhetorical?
Usually not. He likes to pose questions he imagines the reader would have and then answer them.

Does he like em dashes?
Loves them.

Semicolons and colons, too?
Yes, and he uses them very effectively.

How about exclamation points?
He does appear to draw the line there.

Does he use the second person?
Yes. Lots of sentences starting with “Suppose,” “Consider,” and “Take.” Very Kagan-like.

Examples? Analogies? Literary references? Word play?
All of the above, and effectively so.

Is he as funny as Scalia?

Is he as harsh as Scalia?

Did he really write a dissent in a case about a kid who was arrested for making fake burps in gym class?

How does he treat his colleagues in dissent?

Most surprising citation?
To an Elena Kagan Harvard Law Review article in his concurrence questioning Chevron deference.

Is he perfect?
He’s an incredibly talented opinion writer, but he’s not yet at the level of a Roberts, Scalia, or Kagan. It will be easier for him to settle on a consistently confident voice if he makes it to the Supreme Court.

Is he really the next Scalia?
His style is actually more like Kagan’s. And, incidentally, almost nothing like Roberts’s.

Other than the contractions, does his writing have any “quirks”?
Yes. More on that elsewhere.

Will he be confirmed?
I’ll stick to legal writing. But my Twitter followers think 5-1 that he’ll be confirmed by June.