Writing Without Legalese: Tips for Clear Legal Communication

The Art of Avoiding Legalese in Writing

As a legal professional, the use of plain language in legal documents is crucial for effective communication with clients, judges, and juries. Unfortunately, many legal documents are riddled with complex jargon and convoluted sentences that can confuse and alienate readers.

In this blog post, we will explore the importance of avoiding legalese in writing and provide practical tips for crafting clear and concise legal documents.

Why Avoiding Legalese Matters

Research has shown that using plain language in legal writing can lead to better comprehension and retention of information. According to a study conducted by the National Center for State Courts, jurors are more likely to understand and apply legal concepts when they are presented in plain language.

Furthermore, the use of legalese can create barriers to access to justice for individuals who are not familiar with legal terminology. By using plain language, legal professionals can empower their clients to understand their rights and make informed decisions.

Tips Writing Plain Language

Here practical tips avoiding legalese writing:

Tip Example
Avoid Latin phrases Use “injury” instead of “habeas corpus”
Use simple words Use “help” “assist”
Break up complex sentences Use shorter sentences and bullet points to convey information

Case Study: The Impact of Plain Language

In a landmark case in 2018, a legal aid organization in New York conducted an experiment where they presented two versions of a rental agreement to tenants. One version was written in traditional legalese, while the other was written in plain language. The tenants who received the plain language version were able to better understand their rights and obligations, leading to fewer disputes and legal challenges.

Avoiding legalese in writing is not only a best practice for legal professionals, but also a fundamental aspect of access to justice. By embracing plain language, legal professionals can enhance communication, empower clients, and ultimately improve the effectiveness of the legal system.

Professional Legal Contract: Avoiding Legalese in Writing

This contract is entered into on this [Date] by and between the parties listed below:

Party 1 [Name]
Party 2 [Name]

Whereas, the parties recognize the importance and necessity of clear and understandable language in legal writing, and aim to avoid the use of unnecessarily complex legal terminology and legalese in their written communications.

Now, therefore, in consideration of the mutual covenants and agreements contained herein, and for other good and valuable consideration, the parties hereto agree as follows:

1. Definitions
For the purposes of this agreement, “legalese” shall be defined as overly formal or technical language used in legal documents or communications, which may be difficult for the average person to understand.
2. Obligations
Both parties agree to make a concerted effort to use clear, concise, and easily understandable language in all written communications, including but not limited to contracts, agreements, and correspondence.
3. Governing Law
This agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the state of [State], without regard to its conflict of law principles.
4. Dispute Resolution
Any disputes arising out of or relating to this agreement shall be resolved through arbitration in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association. The decision of the arbitrator(s) shall be final and binding upon the parties.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties have executed this agreement as of the date first written above.

Party 1: _________________________
Party 2: _________________________

Top 10 Legal Questions About Avoiding Legalese in Writing

Question Answer
1. Why is avoiding legalese important in legal writing? Avoiding legalese is crucial because it fosters clarity and accessibility for a wider audience. It allows for effective communication and ensures that legal documents are easily understood by all parties involved.
2. How can I simplify legal language in my contracts? To simplify legal language in contracts, consider using plain English, defining complex terms, and utilizing clear and concise sentences. This approach enhances the readability and comprehension of the contract for all parties.
3. What are some common examples of legalese to avoid? Common examples of legalese to avoid include archaic expressions, excessive legal jargon, and convoluted syntax. By eliminating these elements, legal writing becomes more approachable and user-friendly.
4. How can I ensure that my legal documents are free of unnecessary legalese? To ensure that legal documents are free of unnecessary legalese, it is advisable to review and edit the text with a focus on simplifying language and removing superfluous terms. Seeking feedback from non-legal professionals can also provide valuable insights into the clarity of the document.
5. Is it possible to maintain legal precision while avoiding legalese? Absolutely! Maintaining legal precision is achievable through thorough definitions of terms, precise language, and well-structured sentences. By prioritizing clarity and accuracy, legal documents can effectively convey their intended meaning without relying on convoluted language.
6. What are the benefits of using plain language in legal writing? The benefits of using plain language in legal writing are numerous, including improved comprehension, reduced ambiguity, and enhanced accessibility. Additionally, clear communication fosters better relationships between parties and minimizes the risk of misunderstandings.
7. Can avoiding legalese enhance the persuasiveness of legal arguments? Absolutely! By utilizing straightforward and persuasive language, legal arguments become more compelling and impactful. Clarity and precision in legal writing can significantly strengthen the persuasiveness of arguments and enhance their overall effectiveness.
8. How can I train myself to write in plain language? Training oneself to write in plain language involves practice, active self-editing, and a commitment to clarity. Seeking out resources on plain language and constantly challenging oneself to simplify complex concepts are integral to developing proficiency in this area.
9. Are there any legal guidelines for using plain language in writing? While there may not be strict legal guidelines for using plain language, legal professionals are encouraged to prioritize clarity and accessibility in their writing. Embracing plain language principles aligns with the broader goal of effective communication and ensures that legal documents can be easily understood by all stakeholders.
10. What resources are available for learning more about plain language in legal writing? There are numerous resources available to learn more about plain language in legal writing, including style guides, workshops, and online courses. Additionally, seeking mentorship from experienced legal writers and participating in writing groups can provide valuable insights and support in honing plain language skills.
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