Plain Language Law Movement

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The Plain Language (or Plain English) Movement is an international movement toward writing documents that are free of unnecessary legal jargon and easier for readers to comprehend. Plain language has the goal of being understood by the widest possible audience, often the public. It encourages writers to prepare well-written, clear, simple, well-organized documents that meet the needs of the audience. Rather than jargon like "the party of the first part," a plain language document actually refers to people by their names or by simple identifiers that are understandable to the reader.

Plain language drafting seeks to limit legalese and repetition of synonyms. Rather than prohibiting someone to "cut, mutilate, slash, tear up or shred," a plain language document might say "you can't destroy this." According to a leading proponent of plain legal language, Cheryl Stephens, "Legalese is a block to communication with clients; it has made lawyers the butt of jokes for centuries."

In 2008, the Federal Government of the US passed a plain language law, the Plain Language in Government Communications Act of 2008 which requires agencies to rely on the Federal Plain Language Guidelines or the SEC's Plain English Handbook.

Additional resources

From the Plain Language Network:

From the Law and Justice Foundation:

Cheryl Stephens


Author: J Kim Wright