The Move Toward Using Plain Legal Language

Cynthia Adams
Plain language avoids verbosity, pretentious language, and tortuous sentence structures.

Plain language avoids verbosity, pretentious language, and tortuous sentence structures.

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Clarity, conciseness, and precision are the hallmarks of writing excellence. But for centuries drafters of laws, litigation documents, and contracts have aimed for precision with little regard for whether the writing was clear or concise. This “traditional style” of legal writing is notorious for its unnecessarily complex words, legal jargon, and convoluted sentences that can obscure meaning and create ambiguity. Laypeople have often criticized or ridiculed this style of writing, finding it difficult to read and comprehend. And many jurists have agreed. Judge Learned Hand once stated, “The language of the law must not be foreign to the ears of those who are to obey it.”

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