Legalese Vs Plain English


By Seth Heyman

Have you ever seen a contract that has this type of language?

"In the event that the Party of the First Part undertakes any act or effort whatsoever to extend such Party's rights hereunder beyond that reasonably contemplated by the Party of the Second Part under a restrictive interpretation said Party's understanding of their respective rights, duties, and obligations hereunder, the Party of the Second Part shall, upon provision of prior written notice to the Party of the First Part, be excused from any performance obligations hereunder to the extent that such performance obligations may indicate or express an agreement on the part of the Party of the Second Part to accept such extension of rights."

This bizarre, convoluted language has rightfully earned the name "legalese." Like any other language, it is rarely understood by anyone other than its native speakers (and sometimes not even then). Unlike any other language, however, the use of twisted legalese can lead to a costly court battle.

A Brief History of Legalese: How is it that people who are brought up speaking the same language as anyone else in their country come out of law school writing sentences that cannot be understood by anyone other than themselves? Many experts believe that legalese has its roots in the Battle of Hastings in 1066, which lead to the Norman conquest of England. After the conquest, Norman French found its way into English courts. English lawyers were unsure as to whether a French word had the same meaning in English, and thus began to include both words in contracts to be on the safe side. This lead to phrases still in use today, such as "right, title, and interest," where "right" and "title" are English, and "interest" is French, and "breaking and entering," in which the English word "breaking" is paired with the French word "entering." This cross-channel linguistic mashup begat ever more convoluted phraseology as it was passed from generation to generation of lawyers.

The Rise of Plain English: Although legalese is a language unto itself, it was still widely used in contracts until the mid 1970's. Then, in 1975, attorneys for Citibank created the first "reader-friendly" consumer loan agreement by eliminating legalese and replacing it with shorter, more precise language, while at the same time adding numbered paragraphs and other aids to understanding. In the ensuing decades, contract law professors began to adopt the "Plain English" concept and taught it to their students. By the time the 90's rolled around, Plain English was even adopted as a requirement for certain consumer agreements in some states.

The benefit of using plain English is abundantly clear. When contracts are written in pure legalese, the parties that actually need to perform them may not understand their obligations. This results in an ambiguity in which one party to a contract interprets a confusing term differently then the other party, which in turn results in contractual disputes and litigation. So why do many lawyers still continue to incorporate legalese in contracts, despite the rise of plain English? There are basically three reasons why this practice continues:

- Tradition: The legal profession has a long and colorful history. Legalese is as much a tradition as the wigs and robes still used in English courts, and, like English lawyers, American attorneys are reluctant to abandon their treasured traditions.

- Laziness: When drafting contracts, many lawyers simply copy the language of earlier contracts. This practice has been undertaken by attorneys from the year 1066 to the present day, which means that some elements of legalese are simply passed on.

- Self-importance: It's important for an attorney to appear more educated and intelligent than the clients who hire them. Many continue to include legalese to impress their clients and justify high bills.

Here's a parting lesson: Read every contract before you sign it. If your contract includes bizarre and convoluted legalese that you can't easily understand, ask your attorney what it means. If he or she can't readily explain it, don't sign the contract, and hire a new attorney.

Avoiding legalese will not only help you understand your contractual obligations- it may also help you stay out of court. For more guidelines on contract law, visit http://www.bizlawcenter.com.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Seth_Heyman

Plain English

The purpose of writing is to communicate information i.e. transferring your ideas to someone else clearly. Plain English could also be called "understandable and uncomplicated English" or "user-friendly English".

Ten Tips For Clearer Business Writing



  • Have you ever read an email or memo you did not understand? Have you had to read and read again the same paragraph to grasp its meaning? Do you worry that others may not be able to understand what your writing is about?
  • The purpose of any piece of writing is to communicate information to your readers. Here are 10 top tips to make your writing clearer and more understandable:
  • Plan your writing for your readers
  • Put the most important information at the beginning
  • Use short, understandable modern words instead of long, complicated old ones
  • Use short sentences
  • Get rid of unnecessary words, information and sentences
  • Avoid using jargon and technical terms
  • Don't use clichés such as "Please be advised that"
  • Use active verbs instead of the passive voice
  • Format information in lists and use bullet points
  • Insert tables and graphs into text rather than writing lengthy descriptions.

Also know your target audience. Who is going to read your writing and why? Do you know what is important to them?

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Ten Tips For Better Business Writing

Ten Tips For Better Business Writing

Have you ever read an email or memo you did not understand? Have you had to read and read again the same paragraph to grasp its meaning? Do you worry that others may not be able to understand what your writing is about?

The purpose of any piece of writing is to communicate information to your readers. Here are 10 top tips to make your writing clearer and more understandable.

1. Plan your writing for your readers
2. Put the most important information at the beginning
3. Use short, understandable modern words instead of long, complicated old ones
4. Use short sentences
5. Get rid of unnecessary words, information and sentences
6. Avoid using jargon and technical terms
7. Don't use clichés such as "Please be advised that"
8. Use active verbs instead of the passive voice
9. Format information in lists and use bullet points
10. Insert tables and graphs into text rather than writing lengthy descriptions.

Also know your target audience. Who is going to read your writing and why? Do you know what is important to them?
 
Click for more information on how to write better business English

Better Business Writing - Be Concise

Today, writing business emails, letters and reports is taking more and more of our time. And with multiple people in your organisation reading your emails you want to be sure that yours are as correct as possible.

To write effectively not only requires a good knowledge of grammar and a wide vocabulary, but also proper organisation of ideas and an understanding of tone.

The most important thing to realise is that "less is better". With less words your writing will be more easily understood. Being concise is one of the most important ways that you can improve your business writing. Here are some ways to reduce word count.

*Avoid Complicated Words*

One of the most common mistakes is to try and use longer, more complicated words and phrases when you could use a simpler alternative.

For instance:

*Replace "endevour" with "try"

*replace "terminate" with "end"

*Replace "at the present time" with "now"

*Replace "for the purpose of " with "for"


*Avoid Cliches*

Another popular error is the use of cliches. You have probably read these hundreds of times in emails/letters you have received and so copy them into your own writing. Cliches just add extra words to the text but don't add any further meaning.

Consider these:

*Replace "at an early date" with "soon"

*Replace "are in receipt of" with "received"

By using simpler words and phrases you will be certain that your reader will understand your message.

The best way to improve your business English writing is to study with a private English tutor. HKEnglish provides the highest quality one-to-one English tuition in Hong Kong, so
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