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Sturm College of Law


Legal writing, Canons of construction


The "canons of construction" are a set of formalized rules or maxims for interpreting words. These canons are especially relevant for two categories of legal writers. First, brief writers can use the canons to argue a particular interpretation of the words of a statute. The statute's words provide the best evidence of statutory intent, both under the "plain-meaning" rule and when legislative history is sparse. Second, attorneys who draft instruments should consider the impact of the canons when choosing specific language to insert in a contract,' lease, or other instrument.

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