Plain English: Lawyers vs Others

Plain English: Lawyers vs Others

How a lawyer can write plain English? There are several techniques to practice consistently throughout writing legal documents.

Lawyers are notoriously famous for being complicated and write complex sentences. Sometimes when non-lawyers receive lawyers’ emails, documents or contracts, they pass over the document without developing a deep comprehension of the material. They shrug that off.

There is a misunderstanding between plain English for non-lawyers and plain English for lawyers.

Lawyers can write plain English, yet non-lawyers still argues that it is not plain – Can’t the sentence be any shorter? Why ‘the act of negligence/omission’ rather than ‘neglect’? Can you use commas instead of the semicolon? 

Here’s some explanation

Plain English for Non-Lawyer requires any sentence to be sound, grammatically correct, easily digested by the readers; short as possible and communicates directly to the target audience.

In contrast, Plain English for Lawyer has to be precise and accurate; follow the finer nuances and authorities of the law. If it fails to capture the legal elements, the write up will be meaningless and fail in the eyes of law, even though it might be grammatically correct in all respects.

Writing legal documents starts with the process of Legal Research – The activity that identifies and gathers information from legal resources to frame any brief, document or contract. Then, the process of Legal Writing or Legal Drafting begins.

What’s important in legal writing and drafting are: 

1. Differentiating statements – Between liabilities and everything else [discussion, direction & information].

2. Clear use of punctuations – commas, colon, semicolon [or, and/or, and].

3. Cross-referencing to establish connections.

4. The ‘what if ’ situations – In the event that A can’t complete within X days, B shall pay interest of 8% p.a. to be calculated from the date of defaults.

5. Original definition from authorities such as from the Acts and Regulations.

6. Identify conditions – Any obligation attached to the performing parties before/after the event takes place.

So, how can a lawyer still write ‘plain English’?

1. Categorise clauses into a clear actionable theme & header.

2. Consistent and clear definitions: Avoid over defining or under-defining.

3. Check your margin, font, numbering – Arial,11,1.5

4. Avoid overuse of the passive word.

5. Cut the unnecessary – i.e, “In other words” [why even the first paragraph is there?]

Please follow and like us:
Share this Post

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>