Professor Kimble names Michèle Asprey’s book Plain Language for Lawyers as one of the top publications in the history of plain language.
In Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please – The Case for Plain Language in Business, Government, and Law – Carolina Academic Press, Durham, North Carolina, Professor Kimble lists Michele Asprey’s book as number 7 on his list of the top publications – quite an accolade. It appears alongside David Mellinkoff’s book The Language of the Law (from 1963), Richard Wydick’s book Plain English for Lawyers (from 1979), Rudloph Flesch’s work, and Ernest Gowers’s The Complete Plain Words, among others.
The idea that lawyers can – and should – write in plain language is not new. There have always been plain language lawyers. There just aren’t enough of them.
The plain language movement in Australia has been with us for decades. Plain language has been taught in law schools in Australia for almost 20 years. But still too many lawyers don’t write in language that clients, and other readers, can understand.
Plain Language for Lawyers can help. Over the 18 years it has been in print and it has established itself in Australia and overseas as a comprehensive, entertaining and enormously useful text. It includes international references, contains practical advice, and can be read and enjoyed by anyone who is interested in plain language in the law.
The 4th edition has been completely revised and updated.
- All cases, legislation and text references have been updated to 2009
- Recent international developments in plain language are included
- Chapter 12, on the principles of legal interpretation, has been completely rewritten to cover the latest case law
- Chapter 13, the plain language vocabulary, has been extended
- Chapter 14, on email and the internet, has been updated, and includes the latest on defamation law
- Chapter 15 and 16, which cover document design for both print and the computer screen, have both been revised to include the latest research findings on typography, and the way we read and comprehend on-line material
The global financial crisis has shown how complex legal and financial documents can conceal dangers for readers who don’t understand the legal risks of modern financial products. Now, more than ever, it is time for Plain Language for Lawyers.
An expanded version of Chapter 4 – Plain Language Around the World is available in electronic format, for purchase as a stand-alone 100 page work. Contact us to purchase a digital version of this chapter.
What is this book about?What is plain language? Why plain language? Plain language around the worldFundamentalsStructureWordsGrammatical structures to avoidLegal affectations and other nasty habitsOverused words and formulasLittle words: big problemsWhat about the principles of legal interpretation? A plain language vocabularyEmail and the internetDocument design basicsDesigning documents for the computer screenTesting your writingAny questions? Thank you/Index
From the very beginning, you can tell that this is a book unlike most others. There are no wordy prefaces or superfluous forewords here, rather Asprey gets right into it by explaining what the general gist of this book is all about. She then considers why writing in plain language is important if not essential, and draws from examples both within and outside the legal profession to further explain her points… What is refreshing about this section of the book is the fact that practical scenarios and examples rather than abstract theories and hypotheses are used to explain the basic principles and techniques of plain language drafting.
Robert Mbaka and Michael Flynn, Capital Lawyers, (2010) Ethos (ACT Law Society’s journal)
Reviews of previous editions
Asprey outlines the considerable cost savings experienced by companies and governments when they have designed contracts and forms that can be easily and widely understood. … Asprey presents a convincing case for simplicity. She argues that it is not only economically sensible but legally responsible to abandon archaic drafting habits and embrace plain language in drafting.Having convinced the reader that plain language is not only an option in drafting, but the only responsible option, Asprey then proceeds to dissect bad drafting habits and propose solutions. She demonstrates good drafting practices, details successful implementations …
The first part of the book makes a case for the use of plain language in a convincing and easy to read manner. The writer then deals with the fundamentals and structure of drafting. She underlines the importance of knowing your audience when you are writing any document, and writing for the ability, understanding and interest of the reader or audience when preparing a document. …
The book contains chapters which deal with the technicalities of the written word including the structure of drafting, words generally, grammatical structures to avoid, legal affectations and clarity of word use. It also explains how to set out a document so that its very design assists the reader in understanding its content. The third edition of the book includes new chapters on email and use of the internet.
This book is very easy to read. The author has interspersed her technical knowledge with humour, common sense and wide and relevant research. Asprey has provided the reader with a wonderful example of plain language at its best. In my view the book should be compulsory reading for anyone involved in the law.
Judge Richards, (2005) 26 Qld Lawyer
Some books get better with age – like old wine. Each new edition bring the better out of the author, aims more dirctly at the reader, and hits bull’s eye. This is one of them. …
This new revision has some great additions, especially chapters on plain language around the world, writing email and for the internet, and designing documents for the computer screen.
The initial three chapters convince you of the need to use plain language; after all, legalese is certainly undignified. Clear and precise language, organization, design and layout are important. The fundamentals follow – consider your reader, eschew pomposity, plan first, put the most important part of your document first, ignore future tense for your benefit, be flexible. Two wonderful chapters discuss legal affectations and problem words (and, and/or, shall). And do not miss the plain language vocabulary – it meets your needs. …
A detailed index and links to further research (in footnotes that do not daunt the eye) are other hallmarks.
Have you bought the title yet?
Global Law Review, (2004)
Michèle Asprey takes her readers by the hand and leads them gently through the evidence supporting the need to write in terms that the intended reader can understand. Her tone is persuasive and her points are made in a relaxed way supported by extensive references to research, case law and relevant websites. … There is an extensive plain language vocabulary list. I was particularly intrigued by the discussion linking plain language writing to legal interpretation.
Plain Language for Lawyers is the book you need on hand when faced with arguments about using “must” in prefernce to “shall”, or the need to avoid “and/or”, and other hoary chestnuts of drafting. These and similar problems are covered in the chapter Little words: big problems. I could have done with this book for Asprey’s wisdom earlier this year. …
Asprey gives frequent examples of complex writing and then the plainer version, and she always provides evidence to support her point of view. … [her book] is an invaluable resource with which to persuade colleagues to give up bad writing habits.
The book belongs in the library of anyone wishing to communicate more clearly in writing – not just lawyers!
Law Institute Journal (Victoria), Vol 77(11), November (2003)
Here is a most effective guide to all aspects of clear expression.
Ethos (Law Society of the ACT), December (2003)
This book is a must-have for anyone whose livelihood depends upon human communication. While directed specifically towards lawyers, the volume’s pertinence extends to a much wider audience, including professors, doctors, corporate executives and students, just to name a few. … Asprey arranges the book into 18 short, accessible chapters, cleverly anticipating readers’ common questions and concerns and ultimately proving that she knows her audience well, making a seemingly “tough sell” with ease, style and finesse.
Trade Practices Law Journal, Vol 11, December (2003)
With a sense of humour and considerable understanding of the importance of tradition, Asprey describes what plain language is, why it is important, and what lawyers can do to make their legal writing and drafting clearer… One of the book’s strengths is that every issue is rooted in example.
She also deals with fears about precision, showing how it is policy, not language, that leads to different legal results from two very similar sets of words. She goes on to show how many “precise” phrases are far from precise. One of Asprey’s gifts is that she not only highlights the problem but also offers some straightforward solutions, as she does with the precision problem.
T. Costello, of the Nova Scotia Bar and G. Davies, Plain Language Consultant, (1994) 73(3) Canadian Bar Review 431