Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Thomas Jefferson on Plain English Drafting
The call for plain English drafting has a long history. After Thomas Jefferson drafted a bill to establish elementary schools in Virginia, he forwarded a copy to legislator Joseph Cabell and included this sardonic comment:
I should apologize, perhaps, for the style of this bill. I dislike the
verbose and intricate style of the English statutes .... You, however, can
easily correct this bill to the taste of my brother lawyers, by making
every other word a "said" or "aforesaid," and saying everything over
two or three times, so that nobody but we of the craft can untwist the
diction, and find out what it means .... "
LETTER FROM THOMAS JEFFERSON TO JOSEPH C. _CABELL, in 17 THE WRITINGS OF THOMAS
JEFFERSON, at 417-18 (Albert Ellergy Bergh ed., 1903) (1817).