Beyond Contrastive Rhetoric: Helping International Lawyers Use Cohesive Devices in U.S. Legal Writing

48 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2015 Last revised: 28 Jul 2015

See all articles by Elizabeth Baldwin

Elizabeth Baldwin

University of Washington School of Law

Date Written: December 1, 2014


Non-native speakers of English struggle to master the conventions and expectations of U.S. legal writing. To help, legal writing pedagogy for international graduate students increasingly uses contrastive analysis of rhetorical preferences and organizational patterns. Nevertheless, many of these students continue to produce English legal writing that appears to lack coherence. This phenomenon may be partly attributable to the difficulty of learning to use cohesive devices in English (the language features that reflect or restrict relationships between clauses) and the resulting interruption and interference with perceptions of logical flow. I posit that legal writing professors can extend to cohesive devices the contrastive analysis they already use for teaching organizational schemas, as cohesive devices also vary in meaning and use across languages and cultures. These discussions should compare not only the meaning of those devices, but also the assumptions that guide when or whether writers use them. Drawing from the fields of linguistics and second language acquisition, I suggest incorporating a contrastive approach into productive exercises and peer review that will help international students learn to use cohesive devices in context.

Keywords: legal writing, pedagogy, legal education, law schools, LL.M. programs, international students, English language learners, non-native speakers, English as a second language (ESL), rhetoric, cohesive devices, coherence connectives

Suggested Citation

Baldwin, Elizabeth, Beyond Contrastive Rhetoric: Helping International Lawyers Use Cohesive Devices in U.S. Legal Writing (December 1, 2014). Florida Journal of International Law, Vol. 26, No. 3, pp. 399-446, 2014, Available at SSRN:

Elizabeth Baldwin (Contact Author)

University of Washington School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98105-3020
United States


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