Plain Language in the Legal Profession
Legal documents define important rights and responsibilities. But most legal writing experts agree that traditional legal writing is wordy, full of overlong sentences, and unnecessarily difficult to absorb. It's also deadly dull. When your legal documents are confusing instead of clear, when they suffer from legalese, your message may not get through. If the language of your proposal is needlessly complex, your reader may say no when you want him or her to say yes. If your law firm's brochure or website is full of legalese and intimidating disclaimers, potential clients may go to someone whose message is plain and direct.
To write legal documents that communicate effectively, plain language will work for you just as it does for other writers. Plain language may be a little hard to get used to if you're in the habit of writing like a lawyer, but there's plenty of help out there in books and articles by respected legal writers. The basic principles of plain language are in Writing Reader-Friendly Documents.
A good way to see the difference between legalese and plain language is to look at before-and-after examples. You'll find plain-language principles applied to legal writing—and lots of before-and-after examples—in our list of books and articles by noted legal-writing experts.<