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The case for shorter sentences — in legal documents that is

The case for shorter sentences — in legal documents that is

Try reading these sentences once. Do you understand them? Really?

The property was secured at the abovementioned time when the plaintiff left the premises and the defendant then proceeded to enter the premises without permission and of their own volition to illegally and again without permission remove said property from said premises.

Whereas the lease has been deferred for the time being and may in fact be cancelled in due course, said provisions are now null and void and will forthwith be deleted from the contract.

On 16 February 2014, at midday, while the plaintiff was a customer, present at the said real property, located on Featherston Street, Wellington, and that at said time and place, the defendants, and each of them severally, did negligently own operate maintain and control said real property and particularly an escalator therein, and said escalator was at said time and place in an unmaintained condition that made it unsafe for use by persons, including the plaintiff, and directly due to condition, and the negligently maintained condition thereof, the plaintiff was caused to and did sustain injuries as hereinafter set forth.

Understanding what you’re signing is part of your rights as a legal client. The role of your lawyer is to handle your legal matters and resolve your legal problems. They seek to act in your best interest.

If you’re not certain about what you’re reading the first time, how can you trust what you’re signing?

That’s where plain language comes in.

Plain language is a way of writing that is clear and succinct. It aims to make sure the reader understands your message as quickly as possible. Plain language avoids verbose writing, convoluted language, and jargon. 

More people and businesses are recognising that when they write with the audience in mind, they improve client relationships.

Everyone can benefit from using plain language principles in their writing. Try these simple plain language techniques, and you’ll get your point across in no time.

·         Put yourself in your reader’s shoes and try to eliminate, or at least explain, legal terms.
·         Write shorter sentences — an average of 15 to 20 words.
·         Put the most important information first (that means answering the opinion in the first paragraph not the last paragraph, and putting the condition before the consequence).
·         Use plenty of white space.
·         Use bullets for long lists.

We’ve unravelled some common legal jargon in our free downloadable ebook
Unravelling Legal Jargon. Download one now,

If you’d like some advice on writing more clearly, we also hold monthly Document Cafés. After an hour and a half of document chat, drinks, and nibbles in a small group, you’ll leave with ideas for how to get your point across clearly. Quote this article when you contact us, and your Document Café is free!

Phone: 0800 497 483

Write is a professional services firm that helps government and business organisations create clear, reader-friendly communications. We love what we do and have been leaders in plain English for 20 years. You’ll often hear us say that plain English is both our business and our passion.


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