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Plain Language in the Legal Profession

Support for plain-writing is growing in the legal professions, which bring us some of our best and most varied examples of plain-writing.

Journals, articles, essays

Judge Mark P. Painter of the Ohio First District Court Of Appeals wrote two excellent articles on plain legal writing:

Martin Cutts of England’s Plain Language Commission published his classic Lucid Law originally in 1994, with an updated version in 2000.

Martin Cutts has battled gobbledygook in Great Britain for 25 years. Here’s an article about that battle.

Clarity is a worldwide group of lawyers and interested lay people. Its aim is the use of good, clear language by the legal profession.

Sandeep Dave provides advice to legal writers in Plain Language in Law.

The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing has published many important articles on plain language. You can find the table of contents for each volume at the Scribes website.

Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales, Australia, “seeks to advance the fairness and equity of the justice system, and to improve access to justice, especially for socially and economically disadvantaged people.” The Foundation sees plain legal writing as an essential element of this goal. Its website includes information on guides to plain language writing and access to its free bi-monthly plain language law newsletter.

Further reading

The legal profession is shifting toward more straightforward writing.

Lifting The Fog Of Legalese: Essays On Plain Language, by Joseph Kimble, Carolina Academic Press.

Plain English for Lawyers, Richard Wydick, Carolina Academic Press.

Legal Writing in Plain English, a text with exercises, Bryan Garner, University of Chicago Press.

A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage, Bryan Garner, Oxford Univ. Press..

Writing Readable Regulations, Thomas Murawski, Carolina Academic Press.

Writing in Plain English, Robert Eagleson, Australian Government Publishing Service (available on-lne).

Plain Language for Lawyers, Michele Asprey, Federation Press (Australia, available on-line).

Michigan Bar Journal Plain English column. See especially Joe Kimble’s five part series on Lessons in Drafting from the New Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, starting in August 07.