Legal Writing And Drafting: Plain English Use In The Law.

2614 words - 10 pages

"We live in an era of unprecedented bullshit production. The more polite among you might call it poppycock or balderdash or claptrap, but the concept remains the same, and the same coursing stream of crapulence washes over us all, filling our eyes and ears and thoughts with clichés, euphemisms, evasions, and fabulations. Never in the course of mankind have so many people uttered statements that they know to be untrue. Presidents, priests, politicians, lawyers, reporters, corporate executives, and countless others have taken to saying not what they actually believe, but what they want others to believe- not what is, but what works"To what extent, if at all, has the plain language movement been successful in removing the 'bullshit' from traditional legal English?IntroductionIn considering the question 'to what extent has the plain language movement been successful in removing the 'bullshit' from traditional legal English?' it is important to take into account the audience to whom legal documents are directed at, and also used by. Critics of the plain language movement, often defend their use of legalese by citing that to avoid any possible misunderstanding or mistake, lawyers tend to use more words than non-lawyers believe are necessary . Ironically, the use of excessively long sentences along with other hallmarks of traditional legal English confuses more people than not. It seems that the primary reason for this is because those who use, and defend their use of legalese wrongly consider that only those who need to understand legal documents are those belonging to the legal profession. What plain language does is try to maximise the readability of documents, and minimise the confusion often encountered by those attempting to make sense of them. There can be little doubt that plain language is successful in removing the linguistic 'bullshit' from legal documents. For the average citizen who is untrained in law, the 'bullshit' contained in its 'invisible discourse' (which is generally only discernible to lawyers trained to comprehend language by looking inside the framework of the common law and statutory law) remains in tact.This paper discusses the extent to which plain language has removed the 'bullshit' from legal documents; in doing so, I assert that the question of what constitutes as 'bullshit' is subjective, and depends largely on the training and experience of the reader.Plain Language and Legalese"Plain language has to do with clear and effective communication - nothing more or less. It does, though, signify a new attitude and a fundamental change from past practices" . It is clearly distinguished from traditional legal English, "a form of language which is about as far removed as possible from informal spontaneous conversation" . The conservatism and archaic nature of legalese, which Crystal and Davy assert stems from a "reliance on forms which were established in the past and the…[legal fraternity's]…reluctance to...

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