Friday, November 9, 2012

Examples of Plain Language Rewrites

From the Plain Language International Association website:

From a brief of a few years ago. Widgets inserted to protect the guilty (submitted by Judge Mark P. Painter, Cincinnati, Ohio,

Due to the fact that the plaintiff-appellant had up to this point in time supplied an insufficient number of widgets, defendant-appellee specified that, in the event that an insufficient number was supplied in the future, the contract would be held to be terminated, and deemed to be null and void and of no further effect. (55 words)


Because Smith Co. had not supplied enough widgets, Jones Co. said that, if this happened again, Jones would terminate the contract. (21 words)

From A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr, a close call...

He said he wanted a settlement that would provide for the economic security of the families, and for their medical bills in the future.

Perhaps clearer:

He said he wanted a settlement that would make the families financially secure as well as pay their future medical bills.

And a recent headline from a Virginia case:

"It's a $25 fine for driving while applying mascara."

This reverses the onus on the wrong behavior ands makes it sound like:


It is the applying of mascara that is unlawful, instead of the driving under sub-optimum conditions; or


The primary activity was applying mascara which was interrupted by driving.

Rewritten, the headline should properly read:

"It's a $25 fine to apply mascara while driving."

From a Clarity Award Winner from the State Bar of Michigan's Plain English Committee:

"[Name] informed you of the procedures for calculating interest for insufficient estimates. If the enclosed invoice(s) include charges for insufficient estimates, a detailed insufficient estimated [sic] used to calculate these charges is also enclosed."

Changed to:

"How to pay your bill: To avoid penalties as well as further interest, you must pay this bill by its due date."

And another Michigan Award Winner:


I give my Agent the power to exercise or perform any act, power, duty, right, or obligation whatsoever that I have or may hereafter acquire, relating to any person, matter, transaction, or property, real or personal, tangible or intangible, now owned or hereafter acquired by me, including, without limitation, the following specifically enumerated powers. I grant to my Agent full power and authority to do everything necessary in exercising any of the powers herein granted as fully as I might or could do if personally present, with full power of substitution or revocation, hereby ratifying and confirming all that my Agent shall lawfully do or cause to be done by virtue of this Power of Attorney and the powers herein granted.


I give my agent the power to do anything that I have a right or duty to do, now or in the future.


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