John Pease_paper.pdf - 7\u20109 November 2012 Coolum Sunshine Coast Queensland ACLA National Conference 2012 Plain English A solution for effective

John Pease_paper.pdf - 7u20109 November 2012 Coolum...

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7 9   November   2012,   Coolum,   Sunshine   Coast,   Queensland ACLA   National   Conference   2012   Plain   English   A   solution   for   effective   communication   John Pease Friday, 9 November 2012  
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Page | 1 Contents   Introduction .................................................................................................................................. 2   What is plain English? .................................................................................................................. 3   It’s been a long journey … ............................................................................................................. 5   The early English experience .................................................................................................... 5   The United States ...................................................................................................................... 7   United Kingdom ........................................................................................................................ 9   Australia ................................................................................................................................... 10   Why plain English makes sense .................................................................................................. 12   Respect for the law .................................................................................................................. 12   It is required by law ................................................................................................................. 12   Plain English saves time .......................................................................................................... 13   Plain English saves money ...................................................................................................... 13   As a compliance tool ................................................................................................................ 13   Avoiding disputes & litigation ................................................................................................. 13   The reputation of the legal profession .................................................................................... 14   Answering the critics ................................................................................................................... 14   Is ‘plain’ English safe (some liability issues) .............................................................................. 17   Can you afford not to use plain English? ................................................................................... 18   Tips for plain English (effective) communication ..................................................................... 21   Appendix – ‘Big word’ alternatives ........................................................................................... 30  
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Page | 2 Introduction   In this paper, I discuss: The history of legal writing and the emergence of plain English Why you should write in plain English How to write in plain English. As lawyers, what we do most is write – Abraham Lincoln said that a lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade, but we express the advice in words. And we use our time in drafting, in communicating via the written word. Sometimes, though, we overlook the first object of writing … to communicate. Lawyers no longer communicate only to lawyers. Parliamentary counsel no longer write for a small educated elite. The public and the profession are becoming increasingly intolerant of archaic and unnecessarily complex legal language. But the challenge is not unique to the legal profession. Not only is poor legal language losing lawyers their clients, but businesses that use archaic language in their documents are losing customers to those who do not. The failure to use plain language costs society as a whole an inordinate amount of time and money. Poor legal language brings the profession, and the law itself, into disrepute. Many in the legal profession and the wider business community have found plain language to be economic and a good marketing tool. The use of plain English saves everyone time and money and makes the law directly relevant to those who are affected by it. But the legal profession is faced with a challenge. How can the law be expressed so that it is readily understood? How can the message contained in agreements, wills, letters, briefs, opinions, judgments, and legislation be communicated in the clearest possible way? The premise behind the plain English movement is that legal documents ought to be plainer – and more comprehensible – to the average person. With such a goal, it is hard to imagine how even the movement’s sternest critics could suggest that plain English is anything but an aid to effective communication.
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