Last Monday was International Plain English Day. Plain English is one of the corner stones of our training programmes (see this blog’s Plain English section). To celebrate this event, we would like to highlight, once again, the importance of using plain English in your legal writing. In line with our hands on approach, we are including a short quiz. Please feel free to send in your plain English versions of one (or all three) of the sentences below. Check out the Branch Out Legal English Blog in two weeks’ time to see our feedback on your entries.
The plain language movement has not yet caught in the Netherlands and is often dismissed as simplistic. But make no mistake, plain language (Plain English in this case) is now required by law in many parts of world. Countries that follow the rules of plain language/English include South Africa, Australia, Singapore, the Phillipines, the US and UK. So you and your law firm would be well advised to strike while the iron’s hot and take the lead.
What is Plain English?
- Plain English is ‘writing that is easily understandable for the people who are meant to read it’; particularly non-legal professionals i.e. your clients.
- It eliminates complicated legal words and phrases so that the reader does not need to have a legal background in order to understand the relevant text.
- Plain English is simple, clear and concise.
- It removes ambiguity and confusion, so that the intended message and meaning of the words is not lost.
Why should I use Plain English?
- Even in countries where plain language is not (yet) a legal requirement, it has become a desirable and practical way to do business. An increasing number of firms are realising that plain language is essential for their brand and for achieving their bottom line.
- It improves communication, it helps effective sharing of information, it gets the message across, it helps all relevant parties know their roles and rights in terms of the relevant documentation.
- It reduces the risk of misunderstanding, it helps avoid legal disputes, it keeps your customers and clients happy and it enhances your brand and its reputation.
And now for our Quiz: Rewrite the following three sentences in Plain English (and send to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
1. Actual Clause from a Car Rental Agreement
In the occurrence of the vehicle’s non performance through breakdown the owners must at their own expense effect the collection of the said vehicle and attend to performing the necessary repairs thereto.
2. Actual Clause from a Will
I reserve to myself the right from time to time and at all times hereafter to make all such alterations in and additions to this my Will as I think fit, either by separate act or at the foot hereof, desiring that all such alterations or additions so made under my own signature shall be held as valid and effectual as if inserted herein.
3. Actual Clause from an Antenuptial Contract
Upon all which terms and conditions the said Appearers declared it to be their intention to forthwith solemnize the said intended marriage, mutually promising to allow each other the full force and effect thereof under obligation of their persons and property, each to the other according to the Law.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON PLAIN ENGLISH, GO TO WWW.PLAINENGLISH.CO.UK