Plain language resources

The best plain language resources from Australia and overseas – research, guidelines and practical advice.

The foundation's list of plain language resources is broken up into activities to help you find what you are looking for. Search for a particular topic by keyword or filter by activity. The resources include a range of historical materials that were influential in the development of plain language, particularly in Australia.

We have developed a guide on how we have grouped the resources to make it easier for you to use them.

433 resources
Victoria Law Foundation logo
Essential writing tools
Legal writing

Legal glossary

Developed in consultation with lawyers and law dictionary editors, this plain language glossary explains more than 450 common legal terms.

Legal professionals can use it in their work with clients and members of the public.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

How style guides can contribute to clear and consistent writing

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. In this entertaining and useful keynote, David spoke about what style is – and isn’t. He spoke about the value of using a style guide and its core elements: grammar and syntax, punctuation, words and spelling, and values.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Usability and social responsibility: online publishing

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. In this keynote, David Berman gave a convincing address on why computer-mediated accessibility to information – and standards – are important for everyone: to broaden audiences, to comply with the law, to drive down costs, or simply to be socially responsible.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Empathy: the forgotten element of successful communication

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. In this thought-provoking presentation, Dr Bosley reminded us that people read with their emotions, make decisions based on emotions, and either move toward or away from a brand based on emotions. As plain language communicators, Dr Bosley argued that we have undervalued, or perhaps not even considered, the emotional impact that information has on readers. Dr Bosley also explained how marketing professionals know and count on emotional responses, but we seem to ignore it.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

What were they expecting? How user expectations affect the success or failure of communications

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. Of all the factors that can affect the reception and comprehension of a message, audience expectations are among the most overlooked. Yet they can be one of the main sources of communications failure. In this presentation, Josiah looked at how expectations relate to needs and wants, and at the main types of expectations that influence receptiveness and what can shape them.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Black or white? What is right and what is wrong, and who decides what is wrong?

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. This session explained how the Language Council of Sweden gives advice by telephone, e-mail, Facebook and Twitter regarding questions on correct language use, grammar, style, vocabulary, and so on. The view on what is right and wrong is today less normative, prescriptive and more descriptive, informative compared with some decades ago. This session asked interesting questions such as ‘How do we discuss and argue when we answer?’ It also asked participants how they would answer questions.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

The mobile future: plain language on a mobile web

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. Dr Neil James vividly described the speed at which our world is going mobile. He told us that in 2014, global mobile data traffic grew almost 70%, to a level 30 times larger than the entire Internet for the year 2000. His point? Communication has a mobile future, and it is growing fast through a diverse range of small screens. Dr James briefly reviewed these fascinating mobile trends, updated with the latest reports from researchers such as Cisco and KPCB.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Repurposing lengthy FAQs into useful content

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. Kathryn spoke about how we’ve all encountered a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that cause more harm than good. And how, instead of finding your answer, you leave with even more questions! This session briefly discussed and showcased some questions and answers before they had been written in plain language – and after. The difference was stark. Participants also got the chance to repurpose unwieldy FAQs into more user-friendly format.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Improving the linguistic quality in emails at Statistics Sweden

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. This session presented and discussed a case study of plain language training for a group of about 10 people who reply to questions about statistics from the general public, journalists and professionals. The training focused on helping the group write more complete and helpful replies while letting training participants discover for themselves what needed to change and then form their own guidelines that everyone in the group agreed on. Always a good idea! The presentation shared the result of a follow-up study of the training which indicated that the training has had some effect, but some problems remain.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Risky business: clear communication in Canadian life and health insurance

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. The context for this session was the fact that for many years, people worked on clear communication initiatives in the Canadian life and health insurance industry at an individual level. In December 2010, Canada’s Task Force on Financial Literacy released a report that put the spotlight on the link between clear communication and financial literacy. It also singled out financial industry consumer documents, including life insurance policies, for their lack of clarity.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Why use 50,000 words when 500 will do

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. In this session, Sarah Fox considered how the construction industry faces a trio of problems, storing up disasters waiting to happen. The standard form contracts are no longer fit for their purpose, there is increasing legislative and regulatory interference, and client expectations have never been higher. Many standard form construction contracts in the UK are wordy, complex and full of jargon. The proportion of construction projects that end in disputes has remained remarkably steady, despite regular revisions of those standard forms. Sarah explained how users are faced with a bewildering array of choice – choosing options within options – and how ‘standard’ clauses are subjected to constant tinkering by the legal profession.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Help me read: using reading strategies as a guide for clear language writing

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. Understanding how people read, what helps or hinders comprehension, helps us write clearly and effectively for our target audience. In this session, Diana looked at the reading skills and strategies of fluent readers. She also showed samples of clearly written and accessible public legal education and information to see how they model these effective strategies, particularly for readers whose skills are developing.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Clear writing coaching

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. This session was a starting point in extending plain English beyond the training room walls into the wider organisation by showing that documents are not ‘written’ by staff and ‘corrected’ by management, but are, rather, the result of an intelligent collaborative process.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Using graphics effectively online

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. This presentation covered the basic principles of creating or selecting visuals (images, animations and layout) that make presentations and e-learning courses more engaging and easier to understand. It also provided numerous examples and gave participants real-world suggestions for choosing effective visuals.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Improving graphic sign language using a word grammar

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. This session discussed how the grammar for word languages is more or less universal and describes how to design a correct and efficient word sentence. So, in this session, Dr Verhoef posed and discussed three questions: Is a word grammar applicable for a visual sign language? When the answer is 'Yes', the next question is: does the application of word grammar rules, improve sign understanding? When the answer is 'Yes', the next question is: What is wrong with today’s sign design?

Published: 2015

Research and journals

How Malaysians view plain English and what we do about it

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. Yasmin gave an insightful overview into how Malaysians view learning English. They have an active opposition to the language and English is a second, third or fourth language for most Malaysians. Businesses also have a different requirement for their adult staff to improve their use of English. Yasmin explained that plain English provides a unique answer to these issues, one which she and her colleagues have found adds value to an organisation. She explained how they teach plain English as a second language to working adults, and shared her experience of promoting and teaching plain English in an Asian context.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Plain language culture: a tale of two countries and more… Becoming a plain language organisation and sustaining good practice

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. Presenters in this session showed how it’s one thing to get your organisation to embrace plain language and say that it is important, but it is quite another to build the skillset, communicate and realise the value, and fuel the passion across your business or agency.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Finnish Easy-to-Read pamphlets about social benefits

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. In this session, Solveig explained that Easy-to-Read writing is guided by rules concerning not only the written text but also pictures, design and typography. She identified the core specific traits of this type of writing in terms of length, content, word use and layout of text. Solveig explained that Easy-to-Read is easier than standard language and plain language, and reaches people who are likely to be excluded in society: senior citizens, immigrants, inexperienced readers, people with learning or reading difficulties, a developmental disability, and so on.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Easy-to-Read – to enhance participation for all

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. All people, regardless of reading skills, have the right to participate in society and have access to information. For people with low reading skills it is crucial that information is easy to find, easy to read and easy to understand. This session covered the basics of Easy-to-Read and gave examples on how Easy-to-Read initiatives in Sweden and Finland enable more people to participate in decisions regarding their own lives, welfare and public elections.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Report from a plain language project

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. In 2014 the municipality of Stevns in Denmark carried out a pilot project to initiate a plain language initiative covering the entire municipality. The pilot involved a small section of Social Services and dealt with the reformulation of a series of letters. A working group examined the letters that they send out to citizens in order to edit them to plain language principles. Dr Pedersen studied the group and noted that one of the biggest challenges was how to make sure that legal matters are properly addressed.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Layperson in legal land: effective plain language writing for court

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. Participants learned some background information about the guardian ad litem (GAL) program in the state of Minnesota, USA. The GAL works primarily in juvenile protection and family court cases in which there is a question about the safety of children. The presentation discussed some of the unique challenges of working in a legal environment when many GAL have no legal training: using plain language can help the GAL to stand apart from other professionals involved in these court processes, due to the clarity and directness resulting from a plain language approach.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Successful user experience: strategy and roadmaps

Presentation at the 2015 conference. Properly designed technology starts with a deep understanding of the person using it. A good user experience is a key element in creating a successful product, service or document. Elizabeth presented strategies from her new book that integrates product team goal-setting with user needs and goals. This strategy provides actionable steps to create and implement innovative user experiences by getting buy-in from key stakeholders at project inception. The result is a wider adoption of user experience tools as a key component of product development.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Goldfish, clear communications and LUNAtics?

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. What do goldfish have to do with clear communications? LUNA is the methodology for designing information to ensure clear communications. Using examples, Robert skilfully demonstrated how Locate/Understand/Act is an effective process to create clear communications. LUNA incorporates the best practices and principles of information design, plain language, typography, graphic design, analysis, psychology, stakeholders and usability testing.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Making health research make sense

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. Dr Mann, explained how in health and medical research, we become so accustomed to the jargon and technical language of our work that we expect everyone to understand it. But… they don’t. Together, under Dr Mann’s skillful guidance, participants explored why health research doesn’t always make sense, why it is important to make sense of it, and what we as plain language practitioners can do to make health research make sense for everyone.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Plain language handbook for legal writers

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. This presentation focused on: the perhaps surprising audiences and purposes for the A plain-language handbook for legal writers. It gave brief summaries of six new chapters and why they arose, and discussed three most unusual plain language documents from Volume 2’s models and examples. One is written by a judge, another by an Inuit government department, and the last – with a permission-to-use (and tailor) to a reader’s needs – by a plain language specialist and an expert wills lawyer.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Rewrite – how to overcome daily sabotage of your brand and profit

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. Rewrite is a one-of-a-kind book that highlights the tremendous cost of bad writing in business and government – and offers practical solutions for change. Drawing on years of commercial experience, Lynda Harris (New Zealand) and her colleagues have produced a handbook for improving bottom-line results by changing the way writers think. Rewrite proves the point that almost anyone with vision, determination and a proven system can transform the way their organisation communicates.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Using plain language to protect consumers

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. Colm Kincaid gave a brief outline of the Central Bank’s Revised Consumer Protection Code (2012) and its requirements in terms of plain language. He explained that while plain language guidelines and testing are encouraged, much more needs to be done to promote the use of plain language.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Plain language, citizens and the European Ombudsman

Presented at the PLAIN conference in 2015, the European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, spoke eloquently about the value of plain language, focusing on its value to government and the public administration sector. She also spoke about how her office deals with complaints against the EU institutions.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Clear health information is the best remedy

Presented at the PLAIN conference 2015, Dr Murray from MSD described what health literacy is, levels of health literacy and general literacy. He looked at patient health behaviours and outcomes, and how they are linked to low health literacy. Dr Murray mentioned some MSD projects focused on improving health outcomes, and why these are important.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Testing 1, 2, 3…: An integrated model for evaluating plain language

Plenary panel at the PLAIN 2015 conference with Dr Neil James, Susan Kleimann and Lynda Harris. This plenary looked at the ‘false dichotomy’ about testing and the need to move towards all plain language documents having some form of evaluation, but more broadly defined. The panel then looked at the ‘Spectrum of evaluation methods’ – a new ‘spectrum’ of methods, including document assessment methods and user-testing methods.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Health: communicating clearly about medications

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. Conflicts between criteria related to regulations (legal), profits (economic), and healthcare (wellness) prevent the development of clear language about medicines. The underlying assumptions of these three perspectives can be discerned in most examples of information about medicines. The presentation showed some of these.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Plan for the Modernization of Legal Language sponsored by the Spanish Ministry of Justice

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. In 2011 the Spanish Minister for Justice formally presented the Cross Cutting Ministry Commission Report on the Modernization of Legal Language (Informe de la Comisión interministerial de modernización del lenguaje jurídico). This presentation focused on the highlights of that report which was directed by Dr Montolío, and carried out by a research team from the University of Barcelona (Estudios del Discurso Académico y Profesional). To date, this is the most extensive report on Spanish legal discourse.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Transparent, Clear and Responsible Communication Project in BBVA

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. The presentation described the Transparent, Clear and Responsible (TCR) Communication Project being implemented in BBVA, a global bank. It also covered the rationale behind this project, the objectives, the main lines of work and the challenges ahead.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

New tools – new possibilities? The search for best practice in clear language

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. New learning trends and digital tools are creating new possibilities to achieve plain language in the public sector. By focusing on the end-users, especially looking closer at the key role of middle management in plain language, Aud-Sølvi Botn shared reflections on what they learned when preparing to develop an e-learning course in plain language.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Advanced online training design to teach plain language writing skills

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. To successfully create online language and writing curriculum, your approach must be the same as for face-to-face courses: actively involve the learner, provide realistic examples and create activities that allow them to apply their learning. The instructional design must ensure that learners can transfer the skills they’ve learned to the workplace. A challenge with online learning is achieving higher-level cognitive objectives – analysis, synthesis and evaluation – that are more easily realised in classroom settings.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Reconciling the needs for legal accuracy with a commitment to plain language

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. The presentation explored how you can negotiate with lawyers and other specialists on reference groups set up to ensure the accuracy of your publication. It covered why to use reference groups, how to set them up and what’s involved in translating legalese into plain language. It showed that you can reconcile the need for accuracy with a commitment to plain language.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Promoting citizens' access to information: the Chilean experience of the Council for Transparency

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. This presentation showed strategies developed by the Council for Transparency to promote and expand the right of access to public information in Chile over the last few years. These strategies have worked with citizens and plain language on different levels in the public sector and in civil society. Through the slides, participants will see concrete experiences and strategies that have benefited the modernisation of public management and created greater credibility for the state. The development of these strategies have enabled citizens to have greater participation and control of their institutions, with the language of the people being the basic bottom line of interaction.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Does (best) practice make perfect?

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. This was a presentation about plain language perseverance at a small Swedish agency – a time journey through goals, methods and results. This session looked at how organisations (one in particular) plan and take a plain language journey with our support in the following areas: education, editing and revising, hands-on coaching, and style guides. In the fifth year of this journey, the presentation shared lessons learned.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Communicating clearly to Irish citizens using our website

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. In mid-2014, the Irish Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources prioritised a project focused on making web content more understandable and accessible to the general public of Ireland. In this lively presentation, Niamh Buckley of the Department of Communications, with Fergal McGovern of VisibleThread (a company that provided some of the automated scoring tooling used during this project) shared strategies on how the department was able to educate content authors about the core principles of plain language.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Clear language in Norwegian public digital services

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. The Agency for Public Administration and eGovernment and the Language Council developed a methodology for evaluating the language used in Norwegian public digital services and websites. It is based on the principle of clear language in Norway’s Civil Service – that the language used is plain and user-friendly. This presentation showed the development of the methodology and reported the findings from the first evaluation.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Clear communication in corporate and financial translation

Presentation at PLAIN 2015 conference. Translators can improve the quality of their work by applying clear communication principles. In this era of Google Translate, translators should focus on the human contribution to their communication to add value to their profession. This presentation highlighted user experience, offering tips and suggestions for translators and other language specialists working in multilingual environments.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Clear, concise, and effective: user-testing financial documents in a new regulatory environment

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. Participants in this session heard about several aspects of best practice in user-testing. These included: how to apply a model for user-testing to a financial document, what questions a client organisation is likely to ask about the methodology and how to respond, ways to deal with unexpected results and how the findings can influence the final design and content of the document.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Decision-writing for the Local Government Ombudsman

Presentation from the PLAIN 2015 conference. The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) investigates complaints from the public about failures of administration in public bodies including local authorities, schools and care providers in England. In 2011 the LGO decided to move towards routine publication of most of its 11,000 decisions each year. Each decision would have to be accessible and readable for the public as well as for its individual addressees. Publication began in 2014. This case study explained how, in 3 years, the LGO worked on the presentation, style, tone and language of its decisions to meet this objective.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Foxed and fined: how unclear contractual parking signs bamboozle motorists

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. In this session participants were in the driving seat, almost literally. They played the role of a driver faced by the genuine signs at a hospital car park. It was challenging. The presenter then explained how he (and others) publicly shamed the trust into getting all the signs and ticket machines altered so they were easier to understand. This led to a 42% reduction in the number of penalties being issued, and other interesting findings.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Welcome to the financial mainstream? The hazards facing low-income people when navigating the financial world

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. Since the 2008 financial crisis, there has been a big push from the Canadian government and our major banks for more 'financial literacy'. This effort combines practical financial education for consumers with efforts to clarify obscure financial contracts such as credit card and mortgage insurance policies. Sally spoke about her experiences, both working with the big banks and on the front lines with the 'financially illiterate'.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Best practice guidelines for community legal education

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. This session focused on best practice guidelines for the development and maintenance of online community legal information developed by the Victorian Legal Assistance Forum. The use of search engines to find information can lead the user to incorrect or irrelevant information that is unlikely to assist. Even when relevant websites are located many are too complicated, poorly structured and don’t meet plain language guidelines. The guidelines were developed to help address these issues.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Getting the right people around the right table: ensuring success in a clear communications project

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. One of the major activities of any clear communications project is to contact and involve all relevant stakeholders. In practice, this activity always requires more effort than expected, because the list of stakeholders can only be formed at the start of a project. To make matters even more complex, any project will modify and adjust the frames and assumptions of several stakeholders.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Plain language in social media

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. A presentation about plain language on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The session included information on best practice (in terms of a professional communication) in social media. It also included discussion about the impact of social media on an organisation’s overall writing.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Teaching plain language in groups – administrators and lawyers side by side

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. What works when you teach plain language in groups? One thing is varying the ways you talk about texts and reading, another is using effective methods. In this session, Ms Jaensson presented a course method of Språkkonsulterna, and shared what worked for them. After that, participants were invited to get creative, and share their knowledge and ideas.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

PLAIN 2020: A new direction for PLAIN

Presentation at the PLAIN 2015 conference. Dr James spoke about PLAIN’s efforts to coordinate international activities in plain language. He also highlighted PLAIN’s draft consultative strategic and how it will help coordinate plain language activities around the world.

Published: 2015

Research and journals

Caught in the web – young people and the internet

A summary of research into how young people use the internet to solve legal problems and the challenges they face.

The research was undertaken by Dr Catrina Denvir from the University College London Faculty of Law. The article contains a link to a PowerPoint presentation provided by Dr Denvir.

Published: 2014

Research and journals

Meeting the information needs of litigants in person

A report on research undertaken by Law for Life's Advicenow project that examines the legal information needs of litigants in person (self-represented litigants) in England and Wales.

The report provides useful information for anyone involved in writing information about the law that may be used by litigants in person. The report focuses on information notes, guides and leaflets, but the principles it outlines will also be useful for all standard forms of communication aimed at litigants in person, including court forms.

Published: 2014

Organisations

Plain Language Association International (PLAIN)

Plain Language Association International (PLAIN) is the international association for plain language supporters and practitioners that promotes clear communication in any language. Their growing network includes plain language advocates, professionals and organisations. PLAIN organises an international conference every two years. PLAIN is a membership organisation.

Published: 2014

Organisations

Victoria Law Foundation

Victoria Law Foundation aims to help Victorians understand the law and use it to improve their lives. It produces plain language publications, delivers education programs and advocates for the use of plain language in the law.

Published: 2014

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Research and journals

Teaching plain language through editing

This articles looks at how a Swedish language agency teaches and promotes plain language. Specifically, the article offers suggestions about teaching plain language including empowering the writer, explaining changes and providing the right support.

Keywords: Sweden, training, teaching, editing

Published: 2013

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Research and journals

Case study: Comparison of plain language teaching for two non-native English-speaking professional groups: lawyers & engineers

This article looks at two different plain language teaching courses; one for lawyers and one for engineers. It details and compares each of the programs, noting the differences in student responsiveness and teaching approaches.

Keywords: teaching, training, non-native English, lawyers, engineers

Published: 2013

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Research and journals

Teaching grammar without scaring people

This article looks at how to teach grammar in a non-threatening, approachable way. It details how the differences between active and passive voice, dependent and independent clauses and nominalisations can be taught to individuals who may not have a firm understanding of grammar.

Keywords: grammar, teaching, training

Published: 2013

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Research and journals

We follow Aristotle

This article looks at effective plain language coaching. Borrowing from Aristotle, it outlines and details a three step process for good coaching; goals, means and adaptability.

Keywords: Aristotle, teaching, training, coaching

Published: 2013

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Research and journals

A "Show, don't Tell" lesson on plain language

This article looks at the benefits of showing, rather than just telling students how to use plain language. The article includes helpful tips and examples of materials that demonstrate how plain language can be used.

Keywords: teaching, training, students, university

Published: 2013

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Research and journals

Teaching plain language drafting in a legislative and administrative advocacy clinic

This article discusses the various elements of a plain language drafting course delivered at The Public Law Centre in the USA.

Keywords: legislative drafting

Published: 2013

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Research and journals

Visual clarity in contract drafting

This article discusses the concept of visual clarity and importance of visual aids in plain language. It provides a helpful discussion of how and why visual clarity is so effective, and what writers can do to incorporate visual clarity in their writing.

Keywords: visual clarity, drafting

Published: 2013

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Research and journals

Lessons from the workshop trenches: Challenges in teaching plain-language writing to health professionals

This article discusses the challenges that health professionals face when communicating clearly with patients. It explores a plain language program directed at health professionals that aims to improve their communication with patients.

Keywords: health, healthcare, communication, training, teaching

Published: 2013

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Research and journals

Clearer words, clearer justice

This article looks at student engagement in plain language courses in Mexico. Specifically, it details the challenges in getting students to make the shift to plain language, and the potential benefits to the justice system should this shift occur.

Keywords: Mexico, justice system, students, university

Published: 2013

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Research and journals

Trying to change the institutional culture: the European Commission's clear writing campaign

This article is a brief update on the European Commission's campaign for plain language.

Keywords: European Commission, non-English, culture

Published: 2013

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Research and journals

A study into best practice community legal information - a summary

This article summarises the factors that should be considered when providing community legal education. These factors include audience, design, and distribution.

Keywords: community legal information, audience, design, distribution

Published: 2013

Research and journals

Empowering individuals to understand and engage

The article looks at the use of a webcast program and plain language to engage members of the community with not-for-profit organisations. Specifically, the article talks about Boards for All, a Californian initiative that teaches people about not-for-profit governance.

Keywords: webcast, webinars, not-for-profit, governance

Published: 2013

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Research and journals

Wrong - again - about plain language

This article is an in-depth, critical analysis of Jack Stark's arguments against plain language. The article strongly challenges and rebuts Stark's arguments, rejecting the ideas that plain language is inaccurate or inappropriate.

Keywords: Jack Stark, critique

Published: 2013

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Research and journals

Plain language in the financial world

This article details the steps taken by a group of agencies to reform privacy notices given by financial institutions. The article notes key findings from the reform procedure and provides an example of a 'user-friendly' privacy notice. It also outlines the role of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in protecting the rights of consumers.

Keywords: privacy, reform, financial institutions, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Published: 2012

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Research and journals

The IC clear project

This article discusses the development of the International Consortium for Clear Communication (IC Clear) project to develop the first international clear communication course.

Keywords: IC Clear, international, communication, course

Published: 2012

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Research and journals

Plain language laws in Australia

This article discusses the prospects for plain language laws in Australia. It also explores issues such as how to define plain language, who the laws should be directed at, and how they would be enforced.

Keywords: Australia, legislation

Published: 2012

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Research and journals

Plain language laws in Netherlands

This articles discusses Dutch plain language laws. Specifically, it looks at the requirements that currently exist in constitutional statutes and consumer laws.

Keywords: Netherlands, legislation, civil rights, constitutional statutes, consumer laws

Published: 2012

Research and journals

Simple is smart, smart is fast

This article contains tip on how to increase the readability of letters. The author states that readers should know the important messages, whether they need to do anything and where they can find information within 15 seconds of opening a letter.

Keywords: readability, letters, tips

Published: 2012

Research and journals

You have the right to remain baffled: plain language and criminal justice

This article the impact that legal language has on individuals that come into contact with the criminal justice system, including victims, the accused, witnesses and families.

Keywords: legal language, justice system

Published: 2012

Research and journals

Plain language a commercial edge?

Law Institute Journal, August 2012, p53

This article by Joh Kirby makes the argument that developing a legal practice with a focus on plain language can give you a commercial edge. The article won the Rogers Legal Writing Award for outstanding written contribution to the Law Institute Journal in 2013.

Published: 2012

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Research and journals

Advocating plain language in the media

This article looks at how to promote plain language using various media outlets. This articles details the experiences of the Plain English Foundation and talks about their engagement with print, radio and online media.

Keywords: Plain English Foundation, print, radio, online, television, media

Published: 2012

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Research and journals

The Korean initiative for easy-to-understand laws

This article looks at the Korean initiative making the law more accessible. The article discusses the challenges faced, including the complex integration of Chinese characters in Korean laws and provides examples of how these changes were made and the public response to them.

Keywords: Korea, re-writing, accessible

Published: 2012

Research and journals

Plain language: no budget – no problem

This article outlines the activities of the US Plain Language Action and Information Network. The article explains that US PLAIN is run by a dedicated number of volunteer members who's focus is promoting the use of plain language in government communications.

Keywords: US PLAIN, volunteers, members, government communications, promoting plain language

Published: 2012

Research and journals

Plain language: the underlying research

This paper looks at the assumptions made about what makes good plain language, and then tests these assumptions against the findings of existing research. An excellent presentation that helps to develop a research understanding of plain language.

Published: 2012

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Research and journals

Working with lawyers on your projects

This article is full of handy tips on dealing with lawyers who are resistant to using plain language. Specifically, it looks at what you need to know about lawyers' work, what research says about the 'lawyerly persona' and ways to work more effectively with lawyers.

Keywords: lawyers, lawyerly persona, collaboration

Published: 2011

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Research and journals

Teaching judgment writing in Canada

This article looks at how the Canadian judicial system recognised the need for clear judgments and developed a writing course designed for judges. The articles outlines elements of the course, the teaching methods used, and the success of the program.

Keywords: judges, training, judgments, Canada

Published: 2011

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Research and journals

Developing legal rights information: Collaborating with external legal advisors

This article looks at the role of community legal organisations in producing legally accurate, plain language documents. It discusses the involvement of external organisations in helping organisations to decide on projects, apply plain language and determine legal accuracy of information.

Keywords: community legal education, legal accuracy, collaboration

Published: 2011

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Research and journals

A 'four minds' approach to editing creates clarity

This articles suggests that the most effective method of plain language editing in the 'four minds' approach. That is, approaching documents from four different perspectives. The article also outlines the steps taken by the author to complete a plain language edit of a complex building contract.

Keywords: editing, 'four minds approach'

Published: 2011

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Research and journals

The European Commission's clear writing campaign

This article looks at the European Commission's clear writing campaign 'Fight the Fog.' It explains the campaign, noting the challenges that arise from multilingualism and how the campaign is addressing those problems.

Keywords: European Commission, clear writing, multilingualism

Published: 2011

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Research and journals

Japan's project to simplify courtroom language

This article recounts the introduction of the lay judge system in Japan. The article details the development of the system which involved rewording legal terms in order to make them clearer for people from non-legal backgrounds.

Keywords: lay judge, Japan, rewording

Published: 2011

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Research and journals

Clarity: an empathetic journey towards understanding

This article discusses the role of empathy in ensuring that information is provided with clarity. The article discusses the roles that good information design and plain language have to play in ensuring clear communication.

Keywords: empathy, plain language, information design, understanding

Published: 2011

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Research and journals

Multidisciplinary project: Plain language writers, designers, usability experts and lawyers put their heads together

This article details the outcomes of a Clarity project that involved professionals from different backgrounds collaborating to simplify information using plain language. The projects included World of Warcraft terms of service, South African Gautrain disclaimer clause, Gibson Sheat Lawyers Standard Terms of Engagement and Chase Credit Card Agreement.

Keywords: simplify, projects, terms of service, disclaimer clause, terms of engagement, agreement

Published: 2011

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Research and journals

Information about medicines: legal and visual arguments

This article identifies and discusses the problems faced by the medicinal and pharmaceutical industry with communicating in plain language. The article argues that packaging and leaflets for pharmaceutical products should be considered from a plain language perspective.

Keywords: medicine, packaging, leaflets

Published: 2011

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Research and journals

Defining plain language

This article discusses different ways of, and the problems associated with, trying to define the term 'plain language'. The article analyzes a variety of different approaches including numerical formulas, element -focused, and outcome-focused definitions. The article also provides examples of current definitions from organisations across the globe.

Keywords: plain language definition, numerical definition, element-focused definition, outcome-focused definition

Published: 2010

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Setting plain language standards

This article explores the idea of creating plain language standards. It identifies and discusses a series of recommendations for creating plain language standards including how to define 'standards', deciding how standards will be used, deciding the form of a standard and creating committees to pursue the work.

Keywords: plain language standards, elements-based standards, outcomes-based standards

Published: 2010

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Research and journals

Training for plain language

This article provides a series of handy tips for plain language training. It covers what plain language practitioners should know, a discussion of current training programs, how to decide on a program, how to finance the training and tips for expanding the program.

Keywords: training programs, existing programs, finance, expansion

Published: 2010

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Research and journals

Grounding plain language in research

This article looks at the role of research in the plain language movement. It looks the usefulness of research, the nature of plain language research, problems with current research techniques and steps for promoting new research.

Keywords: research

Published: 2010

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Research and journals

Advocating plain language

This article discusses how to best promote plain language. It includes discussions on the role of institutions and advocacy on an international level.

Keywords: international advocacy

Published: 2010

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Research and journals

Certifying plain language

The articles looks at the benefits of implementing a certification program for plain language practitioners. It discusses the risks involved and the logistics of implementing certification.

Keywords: certification, plain language practitioners, professional standard

Published: 2010

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Research and journals

Strengthening plain language

This articles discusses how to improve plain language institutions. It assesses the current options available to institutions, being, working alone or informally through existing organisations, formalising an international federation of organisations, or creating a new structure, and makes a series of recommendations.

Keywords: plain language institutions, coordination

Published: 2010

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Research and journals

Writing smaller

This article highlights what can make a text unnecessarily complex, such as having too many words or words that are too long, redundancies and nominalisations.

Keywords: redundancies, nominalisations, readability

Published: 2010

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Research and journals

Plain words

This article is an speech to London County Council teachers in 1952 by Sir Ernest Gowers. It details the doctrine of plain words and the importance of grammar.

Keywords: Sir Ernest Gowers, London County Council teachers, speech

Published: 2009

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Research and journals

Righting the wrongs of rewriting

This article deals with 'pure rewriting' – rewriting a document so that it has exactly the same content but is easier to understand. The author identifies three main faults when rewriting: being inaccurate translations, having an undue desire for brevity and having assumptions that the predecessors were fools.

Keywords: rewriting, faults, tips

Published: 2009

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Research and journals

Assessing the usability of credit card disclosures

This article identifies the difficulty users may have in understanding credit card disclosures. An outline of a study assessing readability of these documents is given, which uses readability formulas, expert review and a usability test to determine where faults lie. An outline of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosures Act of 2009 is given.

Keywords: credit card disclosures, readability tests, Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosures Act

Published: 2009

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Research and journals

Opening Ceremony remarks for Clarity's third international conference

This article is Clarity President Christopher Balmford's opening speech for Clarity's third international conference, as delivered by Professor Joseph Kimble (immediate past president). It discusses Mexico's recent plain language activities, and the significance of the collapse of the US energy company Enron and the credit crisis in the plain language scene.

Keywords: opening speech, Mexico, President, Christopher Balmford

Published: 2009

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Research and journals

Paths that meet: the plain language network

This article identifies the overall objectives of the Plain Language Network for Spanish speakers which has been set up in Mexico. It discusses past issues of transparency and efficiencies, and identifies what they consider a fundamental right – the right to understand.

Keywords: Plain Language Network, Spanish, Mexico, right to understand

Published: 2009

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Research and journals

Leaving legalese behind

This article identifies and illistrates the business benefits of using plain language through the example of a New Zealand law firm, AJ Park. Some benefits highlighted are saving time and a reduction in clients missing deadlines and reducing culture barriers.

Keywords: New Zealand, AJ Park, benefits, business

Published: 2009

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Research and journals

Stepping stones to plain English

This article discusses the author's thesis 'Plain English: The efficacy of US Securities and Exchange Commission recommendations in corporate annual reports and implications for individual investors'. The thesis discusses plain language in corporate business disclosures.

Keywords: Securities and Exchange Commission, disclosure

Published: 2008

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Research and journals

Construction contract administration – an approach on clarity

This article examines the clarity of construction contracts. The article argues that it is often difficult for a party to comply with terms of a contract if they cannot understand them. The research methods used to examine the clarity, analysis and results are explained.

Keywords: construction contracts, clarity

Published: 2008

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Research and journals

Some thoughts on standards

This article discusses what standards are and their suitability for plain language. Possible examples from the International Standards Organisation (ISO) are given.

Keywords: standards, International Standards Organisation, guidelines

Published: 2008

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Research and journals

Clear language: the municipal challenge

This article is paper 1/3 on Plain Language for municipalities – tools and effects. It discusses how The Clarity Kit was used in two Canadian based to support clear language advocates and discusses how municipalities benefit from clear language.

Keywords: municipalities, The Clarity Kit, Canada

Published: 2008

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Research and journals

Strong, cautious support: Clarity's position on standards and accreditation

This article is a plenary paper from the PLAIN Amsterdam Conference. It outlines Clarity (past) President's support for a standards and accreditation on plain language. The author list areas which need caution, such as assessing effect not form, how standards might differ between audiences and credibility issues.

Keywords: plenary paper, conference, standards, accreditation

Published: 2008

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Research and journals

International plain language standards – a view from the Center for Plain Language

This article is a plenary paper from the PLAIN Amsterdam Conference. It highlights the importance of having an agreed upon set of techniques before an accreditation program is set up. Topics such as what is plain language and word length, frequency and difficulty are discussed.

Keywords: plenary paper, conference, accreditation

Published: 2008

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Research and journals

The building blocks on Wessel's website: the Amsterdam challenge

This article is a plenary paper from the PLAIN Amsterdam Conference. It explains that plain language is not about 'dumbing down' information but rather an intellectual pursuit. Nine questions, which require further research, are posed.

Keywords: plenary paper, conference, building blocks

Published: 2008

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Certified plain-language consultants already exist in Sweden

This article explains how plain language exists in Sweden through academic programs, plain language courses and a professional association. The author also discusses that there is no need for official certification in Sweden, as the university program works in practice as a type of certification while the Association ensure quality for clients.

Keywords: Sweden, plain language movement, certification

Published: 2008

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Research and journals

Measuring plain language at the British Columbia Securities Commission

This article explains British Columbia Securities Commission's (BCSC) audit process used for testing performance and measuring employee's commitment to using plain language.

Keywords: British Columbia Securities Commissions, audit process, measuring plain language

Published: 2007

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Research and journals

Learning about plain language through a community development project on adult literacy

This article outlines a project, the Connecting Literacy to Community, which ran from from 2001–2003 in Canada. The project offered plain language workshops for adult literacy practitioners, particularly low-literacy levels.

Keywords: Canada, literacy, adults literacy

Published: 2007

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Research and journals

A redrafting exercise

This article comprises of three rewrites of a wordy legal document, a Consulting Agreement, in plain language. The writers are law students at the University of Sydney who enrolled in a legal drafting short course.

Keywords: legal drafting, rewriting, agreement

Published: 2007

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Implementing plain language at Mallesons

This article discusses why Mallesons, a commercial firm in the Asia-Pacific region, decided to implement plain language. It discusses their training methods, how they deal with resistance to change and their future direction.

Keywords: plain language policy, law firm, Mallesons

Published: 2006

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Research and journals

Instructions for Queues Bill

This article sets the instructions for a legislative drafting task at Clarity's conference in Boulogne undertaken by Don Macpherson, Robin Dormer and Ben Piper. The panel experts were asked to draft 'The Queues Act 2005'.

Keywords: Queues Bill, legislative drafting

Published: 2006

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Research and journals

Queues Bill 2005

This article is Don Macpherson's draft Queues Bill which was drafted as part of Clarity's conference in Boulogne.

Keywords: Queues Bill, legislative drafting, Don Macpherson

Published: 2006

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Research and journals

Commentary and Queues Bill 2005

This article is Robin Dormer's comments on her draft Queues Bill which was drafted as part of Clarity's conference in Boulogne. The Draft Bill follows on page 10.

Keywords: Queues Bill, legislative drafting, Robin Dormer

Published: 2006

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Research and journals

Queues Bill 2005

This article is Ben Piper's draft Queues Bill which was drafted as part of Clarity's conference in Boulogne.

Keywords: Queues Bill, legislative drafting, Ben Piper

Published: 2006

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Research and journals

Plain language at the Regulator

This article summarised the work to achieve plain language at the British Columbia Securities Commission. The article also discusses the plans for plain language in the future.

Keywords: British Columbia Securities Commission, regulation

Published: 2005

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Organisations

Clarity

Clarity is an international association promoting plain legal language. It produces a journal twice a year, and, in partnership with various other organisations, a conference every two years. Past issues of their journal, Clarity, are available on their website.

Published: 1999

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Research and journals

President Clinton's Memorandum on plain language

This article is the full text of US President Clinton's memorandum on plain language. In it President Clinton tells of his goals to make the government more responsive, assessable and more understandable by the public.

Keywords: President Clinton, memorandum, government writing

Accurate at: 1 September, 1998

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Research and journals

Three dangerous words

This article discusses three words which commonly make a sentence unnecessarily complex and confusing for readers. The words are mutuality, aforesaid and deeming.

Keywords: mutuality, aforesaid, deeming

Published: 1998

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Research and journals

An interview with Christopher Balmford

This article is an interview with Christopher Balmford, a pioneer in the plain language movement. Christopher explains how and why he got involved with plain language and it's benefits.

Keywords: Christopher Balmford, interview

Published: 1998

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Research and journals

Getting the structure right: process, paradigm, and persistence (part 1)

This article outlines the need, difficulty and guiding principles for better organisation of information in documents. Three examples are given.

Keywords: organising documents, structure, clarity

Published: 1998

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Research and journals

Changing the lawyer's image and goals

This article assess a judge's comments that less formal language does not have a place in legal writing. The author discuses how, while some people are stuck with the perception that a good lawyer is one that writes complex documents, plain language is concerned with communication and efficiency. Examples are given throughout the article.

Keywords: legal writing, plain language legislation, lawyers

Published: 1998

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Research and journals

A standard motion revised

This article compares an original, edited and suggested version of a motion that might be filed in a United States district court.

Keywords: motion, suggested changes, United States district court

Published: 1998

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Research and journals

The lessons of one example

This article explains the fundamental flaws of a sample Michigan statute which covers the laws on medical professionals who acts as good Samaritans in an emergency situation, and provides a redrafted version.

Keywords: example, Michigan statute, redraft

Published: 1998

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Research and journals

Europe – en clair

This article explains The European Council of Ministers' decision to require that all legislation be drafted clearly and simply. Specific requirements include no jargon, unnecessary abbreviations, imprecise references to other texts, changing of terms and pointless repetition, and should include short words and sentences.

Keywords: Europe, legislative drafting

Published: 1998

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Research and journals

A chair with no leg to stand on: gender-neutral language

This article explains the political process of implementing gender neutral language in the language of the Australian Government. The article in particular focuses on the actions of then Prime Minister, John Howard, who favoured a traditional approach (ie "chairman") over gender neutral language ("chairperson").

Keywords: gender neutral, chairperson, chairman

Published: 1998

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Research and journals

Extracts from SEC's drafting handbook

This article is an extract from the SEC's drafting handbook that contains plain language tips such as organise content logically, using personal pronouns and reduce the use of abstractions.

Keywords: SEC, drafting handbook, tips

Published: 1998

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Research and journals

Drafting pleadings

This article critiques a set of pleadings for a small claim arbitration matter. The author makes comments throughout on how the pleadings may have been written better.

Keywords: pleadings, example

Published: 1998

Legal writing

A practical guide to drafting pleadings (2nd ed)

A practical guide to drafting pleadings provides a fresh approach to the process of drafting pleadings. Shelly Dunstone provides an insight into the functions and objectives of pleadings, and suggests tools to help approach the task of drafting them. This book will be helpful for those required to prepare pleadings and those learning to draft pleadings, as well as those wanting to improve their skills. It aims to give practitioners the confidence to draft a simple pleading from first principles.

Published: 1998

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Research and journals

Rewriting Australian income tax law

This article explains the reasons for why Australian tax law is being rewritten, including to improve the structure, style and numbering system. The author also discusses the rewriting process and future plans.

Keywords: tax law, Australia, rewriting

Published: 1997

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Research and journals

Lords promote plain legislative drafting

This article is a transcript of a discussion about the amendment to the National Health Service (Pnvate Finance) Bill, moved by Lord Brightman and supported by various other Lords. In particular the Lords explain how clauses which a lawyer may understand may be confusing and unclear to someone who is not used to legal language.

Keywords: National Health Service Bill, legislative drafting, House of Lords

Published: 1997

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Research and journals

Plain language in bank security forms

This article explains the need for plain language in bank documents, such as to comply with the European Directive on Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts and the Banking Code, to ensure independent legal advice for guarantees or someone giving a third party charge as well as to follow the needs of the market.

Keywords: bank documents, guarantees, plain English

Published: 1997

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Research and journals

Don't stop now: an open letter to the SEC

This article is a letter to the Secretary of the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) which shows support of their Plain English Handbook and wider goal to produce certain documents, such as the front and back page and the risk factors section, in plain English. Arguments that lawyers raise against the use of plain language are rebutted.

Keywords: Securities & Exchange Commission, letter, Plain English Handbook

Published: 1997

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Research and journals

Better drafting

This article examines a set of pleadings, and makes comments where it could improve on layout and wording.

Keywords: pleadings, example, critique

Published: 1997

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Research and journals

Cleaning up our acts: B.C. statute revision makes from for plain language changes

This article outlines the plain language changes in a number of British Columbia public acts. The author details the new Statute Revision Act , revision guidelines, gender-neutral language and improving access through using a table of contents in the marginal note, among other things.

Keywords: Statute Revision Act, British Columbia

Published: 1997

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Research and journals

Clearly better drafting: testing two versions of the South Africa Human Rights Commission Act

This article examines the initiative of the Government of South Africa to revise their Human Rights Commission Act to include plain language principles. Key aspects of the revision, comparative and experimental research and general observations are discussed.

Keywords: South Africa, Human Rights Commission Act, revision, usability

Published: 1997

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Research and journals

Plain language in Tenancy Agreement Regulations

This article discuses the standards employed by the British Columbia government to achieve plain language in their forms and styles of tenancy regulation agreements. The authors critiques standards and offers suggestions on how they can be improved.

Keywords: British Columbia, Tenancy Agreement Regulation, critique

Published: 1997

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Research and journals

Plain language: light the way through informed consent

This article discusses a medical case where even though the patient believed the doctor did not explain a procedure clearly. The patient was seeking damages in relation to a permanent procedure they underwent. The trial judge in this case held that the defendant should have been clear and more explicit about the medical procedure, and be aware of their patient's literacy levels.

Keywords: medical procedure, informed consent

Published: 1997

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Research and journals

SEC to issue ''plain language manifesto'

This article explains The Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) 'plain English manifesto', a release which urges companies to use plain language when dealing with certain investors documents. The author discusses the point that plain language does not mean oversimplifying information and is still relevant even when parties are both accustom to specialised language and terms.

Keywords: plain English manifesto, specialised terms, prospectuses

Published: 1997

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Research and journals

SEC plain language guidelines

This article gives several examples from the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) Plain English Handbook, including before and after versions of text.

Keywords: guidelines, examples, before and after

Published: 1997