Friday, November 10, 2006

Plain English: lawyers already do it?

A student who has taken two courses from me told me yesterday that a lot of lawyers say they write in plain English but don't.

In their defense, there are many levels of plain English, and I'll take any efforts in that direction. But . . .

If you are writing exclusively in a legal environment, and if you are not well versed in the literature of the plain-English movement, it is easy to believe that your own writing is in plain English once you've stopped using herewith, witnesseth, inter alia, and the like.

But do more: manage your sentence lengths. Learn how to design an effective document. Strive for a crisp, vigorous, natural tone. Lean to the colloquial. Read up on the literature in the movement. Master the phrasal-adjective hyphen. Limit initials. Use the emdash. Abandon heavy connecting words. Try a contraction. And on and on.

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