Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.

Bryan Garner, the legal writing oracle, has now expanded his sway, publishing the HBR Guide to Better Business Writing.

In an interview, he says that most of us believe that we are good writers. This arises, he says, from a psychological phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect , which, boiled down, says that people who are incompetent in a particular domain tend to overrate their abilities because they don’t really know what is good, while people who are good tend to underrate their abilities because they have higher standards.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

Dunning-Kruger Effect

So, bad writers think their stuff is good. Good writers think their stuff is bad.

For legal writing, the bad writers are wrong and the good writers are right. Multiple drafts and different perspectives are always needed.

What is truly amazing is how good a draft may seem in the moment it is written and how bad it can look after it sits for a few days.

Hauntingly, Dunning and Kruger quote Charles Darwin: “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

 (There are exceptions. I’m thinking about posting this right now. It just feels ready.)

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