Saturday, July 7, 2012

Is Plain English Boring?

When we teach our students to write in plain English, are we training them to write dull, boring prose. In the June issue of the Michigan Bar Journal, Professor Mark Cooney asks

And is plain language really an ugly

duckling? Can a lawyer, judge, or scholar

write with flourish and flair using “plain

little words”?

His answer:

It isn’t plain

at all, if by that you mean dull and drab. It’s

refreshing, persuasive, interesting, and sometimes

colorful. It has strength and, yes, beauty

In the article, he offers a number of examples of legal prose  that is vibrant and in plain English.


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When I tried to get our corporate lawyers to write plain language, they argued that existing legal terms, sentence structures, and expressions were part of case law and set in stone. Nothing could budge them. They believed that their success in front of a judge depended entirely upon their ability to write in ways that mimicked the convoluted language they found in precedent. I gave up.

Posted by: Lee Woods | Jul 21, 2012 8:03:46 AM

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