Plain Language

A document that is legally watertight but incomprehensible is not fair or reasonable, and it does little to stop disputes arising in the first place – Simple Action Centre UK

Yelling about plain language

Plain language challenges lawyers to come out from behind long sentences and wordy words.  Plain language drafting forces writers to be disciplined in their writing and takes years to perfect.

A 2005 study by Maria Mindlin of California’s decision to adopt plain language court forms and instructions outlined “plain language court forms and instructions are better understood, easier to use, and more economical“.

I am an enthusiast (you can find posts on Plain Language related things here) but no where near a master of plain language writing… lucky these folks are…

Plain Language Resources


A very cute short video that explains the overview of plain language and information design for contracts 

Clarity International

Clarity International is a “worldwide network of professionals who are committed to promoting plain legal language“. After attending the 2016 Clarity conference, I can confirm that Clarity is a dedicated group of people, passionate about what plain language can do.

For more about the Clarity Conference, check out my Plain Language posts and the resources from my Speedlearning session at the 2016 conference.

Plain Language UK provides heaps of free resources about plain language in general (see How to write in plain English) and also specific guides for Design and layout, Forms, Letters and Writing business emails just to name a few.

Switch your mind into plain language mode by reading this great list of The A-Z of alternative words to use for plain language drafting.

Victorian Law Association Foundation (VLAF) – Online Legal Information Guidelines

Vistoria is a state of Australia and the Victorian Law Foundation has encouraged not just lawyers but other legal support agencies to use plain language as well as make online legal information the best it can bewith their online guides .

They also have a handy page of Australian and international plain language resources.

Federal Aviation Administration (USA)

Not only do I love the aviation industry in general for their love of checklists, but they are also pretty cluey when it comes to plain language. The FAA were ahead of the game when in 2003 they realised that wordiness was expensive and getting in the way of safety so they came up with the FAA Writing Standards to ‘make clear communication standard practice at FAA’.

It is critical that we communicate clearly, effectively and in plain language that is readily understood by allMarion C Blakely, FAA Administrator in 2003

Plain Language (US Government)

The US has been a strong advocate for plain language. In June 1998, President Bill Clinton called for executive departments and agencies to use plain language in all government documents and in the Plain Writing Act of 2010, President Barack Obama legislated plain language must be used.

Even better, they have checklists about plain language.

Other Plain Language Associations

When you wish to instruct, be brief; that … minds take in quickly what you say, learn its lesson, and retain it faithfully. Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind – Cicero