Is it time lawyers lose the legalese?
Mindset: Fine tune document performance
On this episode, we look at the SLAPP test.
This test gives some key tactics we can use to improve the productivity of the contract document.
• Academic studies showing the effectiveness of visual contract elements
• The picture superiority effect
• Why easy to read is easy to like
• Contract formatting tips
- Steer clear of legalese.
- Do the work to understand your reader and write for readability to gain trust.
- Complex texts are difficult to read. Write clearly and simply if you can, and you’ll be more likely to be thought of as intelligent.
- Ask for feedback… identify complicated wordy words in your contracts and other writing and look them up on word swap lists to find simple alternatives.
Very easy challenge this week!
Do a “find replace” (ctrl + F) on your contracts for the following words and swap them out as follows…
- Utilise (or utilize)… swap for… Use
- Subsequent… swap for… Later, next
- Pursuant to…swap for… By, following, under
Links to sources from this episode of the Checklist Legal Podcast and background information:
- Music: Silent Partner, ‘Sway this way’
- Caitlin Whiteman’s article is a must for all lawyers: Caitlin Whiteman, ‘Why easy-to-read is easy to like – what science tells us about the remarkable benefits of simplicity’, (21 March 2016) https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-easy-to-read-easy-like-what-science-tells-us-caitlin-whiteman
- Just getting started into this whole ‘Plain Language’ thing? Start with one of the global thought leaders: Joseph Kimble, ‘What is plain language?’ (2002) Retrieved via plainlanguage.gov/whatisPL/definitions/Kimble.cfm, accessed 10 June 2017.
- Worth it to see the amazing title: DM Oppenheimer, ‘Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly’ Applied Cognitive Psychology, (31 October 2005) Retrieved via https://www.affiliateresources.org/pdf/ConsequencesErudite.pdf, accessed on 10 June 2017.
MORE READING AND SOURCES
- Christopher R Trudeau, ‘The Public Speaks: An Empirical Study of Legal Communication’ (May 20, 2012). 14 Scribes J. Leg. Writing 121 (2011-2012). Available at SSRN: ssrn.com/abstract=1843415
- Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage (Hardcover), Bryan Garner. See also a fun article on these ‘here-and-there’ words based on Garner’s work by Andy Mergendahl (Lawyerist, 24 May 2012) lawyerist.com/43513/legal-writing-ditch-here-and-there-words/, accessed 10 June 2017.
- Joseph Kimble, ‘You Think the Law Requires Legalese?’ (21 October 2013) retrieved via legalwritingeditor.com/2013/10/21/think-law-requires legalese/#.WS1J1Gh97b0, accessed 30 May 2017.
- Centre for Plain Language, ‘Law Words: 30 essays on legal words & phrases’ (1995) Retrieved via clarity-international.net/documents/law_words.pdf
- Law Reform Commission of Victoria, ‘Plain English and the Law Report’ (1987) No 9, Appendix I Drafting manual: Guidelines for drafting in plain English
- Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd Pocket Edition), definition via lawyerist.com/28922/thy-legal-writing-shall-not-include-shall/, accessed 10 June 2017.
- BA Garner, ‘Learning to Loathe Legalese’ (November 2006) Retrieved via michbar.org/file/barjournal/article/documents/pdf4article1085.pdf, accessed 10 June 2017.
- For more word swap ideas: http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/files/alternative.pdf
Head to the Checklist Legal Resources page for access to the other templates and examples mentioned in the show.