Plain language resources

Drawing together the best plain language resources from Australia and overseas into one location – 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.

Please note that, apart from Victoria Law Foundation resources, all resources are held on external websites.

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

595 resources
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Research and journals

Conjunctions in lists

This article discusses how conjunctions in lists are commonly interpreted by readers, and whether the difficulties in interpreting these can be overcome by applying or ensuring plain language principles.

Republished in number 71, September 2014

Keywords: conjunctions, lists, and, or

Published: 2003

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Research and journals

Giving users a central role

This article summarises the work of the Corporations Law Simplification Program, which has the goal of simplifying existing laws and developing policy and text of law in consultation with the private sector.

Keywords: Corporations Law Simplification Program, Australia, Corporations Act 2001

Published: 2003

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Research and journals

Does it have to be a lawyer?

This article examines the plain language principles which are applied when technical legislation is being drafted in New Zealand. The author asks whether drafting of technical legislation is best performed by non-legal persons or lawyers. Challenges and logical structure are discussed.

Keywords: legislative drafting, structure, New Zealand

Published: 2003

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Research and journals

9/11 aftermath

This article discusses the United State of America's Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) use of plain language principles in information they provide.

Keywords: Food and Drug Administration, communication

Published: 2003

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Research and journals

Including drafters from the start

This article discusses The Corporations Law Simplification Task Force's main features and the implications that these features have. The main features include early and continuous involvement of drafters, extensive consultations on policy proposals, collaborative writing, consultation and feedback from users and avoiding reliance on special features.

Keywords: Corporations Law Simplification Taskforce, legislative rewriting, Corporations Act

Published: 2003

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Research and journals

Why do banks write the way they do?

This article outlines the frustrations many users have with bank contracts. The author suggest that the use of legalese in the contracts stems from bank staff's common misconceptions that formality is a requirement of a contract.

Keywords: bank contracts, legalese, formality

Published: 2003

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Research and journals

The plaining of writers

This article outlines the shift made by the Office of the Auditor General of Alberta towards producing their annual report in a model that incorporate plain language.

Keywords: Office of the Auditor General, annual report, Plain Plan

Published: 2003

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Research and journals

Some thoughts on lists

This article describes how lists can be used to make texts more digestible. Lead-ins, punctuation and conjunctions are discussed.

Keywords: lead-in, punctuation, conjunctions, writing tips

Published: 2003

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Research and journals

Physicians, heal yourselves

This article summarises the faults in the writing of lawyers. Mainly, that texts are rarely appropriate for a range of audiences, are overly wordy, are complex and unclear and stylistically behind when compared to other sectors.

Keywords: legal writing, critique

Published: 2003

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Research and journals

Hereby

This article provides three opinions on the topic of avoiding 'hereby' as per the recommendation of Peter Butt in Clarity 48.

Keywords: hereby, Peter Butt

Published: 2003

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Research and journals

Towards a grand theory of interpretation

This article highlights the importance of words and their interpretation for judges, for example, in examining wills, guarantees and international treaties. Plain meaning and the differences between written contracts and interpretation of legislation are discussed.

Keywords: words, judges, interpretation

Published: 2002

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Research and journals

E-Prime, briefly: A lawyer's experiment with writing in E-Prime

This article explains that lawyers are not just 'problem solvers' for their clients, but in fact spend an enormous amount of time communicating in writing and verbally. The author summarises E-Prime, a subset of English which deliberately avoids any forms of the verb 'to be' to simplify and shorten sentences.

Keywords: communication, E-Prime,

Published: 2002

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Research and journals

Getting the message across in languages other than English: the Canadian example

This article explains how the Canadian plain language movement in English led to a similar movement in French, and has also encouraged significant European institutions, such as the European Commission, to consider the problems which are caused by their use of jargon and deficiencies. The translation process and universal appeal of the Plain Language model are discussed.

Keywords: Canada, French, plain language movement

Published: 2002

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Research and journals

Case Comment - Supreme Court of Canada Imposing a Plain Language requirement

This article discusses the case of Smith v. Co-operators General Insurance Co. whereby the Judge held that a plain language requirement should be mandatory for certain notices under the Ontario Insurance Act. The author discusses the implications for the creation of a legal obligation, complying with the outcome-based obligations and the possible extension to other consumer contracts.

Keywords: insurance claim, case study, legislation, plain language obligations

Published: 2002

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Research and journals

South African banks must use plain language

This article discusses the Code of Banking Practice adopted in 2000 which required that all banking contracts be revised with plain language principles in mind. The Code applied to all members of the Banking Council of South Africa, namely being all the major national banks.

Keywords: Code of Banking Practice, South Africa

Published: 2002

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Research and journals

Plain language and developing human right materials

This article discusses the development of a resource book to compliment the South African Constitution, which would be written in plain English with the aim of increasing the reader's knowledge and accessibility of their socio-economic rights. The author summarises context, aims and how plain language would be integrated.

Keywords: socio-economic rights, South Africa, human rights

Published: 2002

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Research and journals

Editing in the German Parliament

This article discusses the work of the German Language Society (GLS), a non-political association set up to protect and research the German language. The author explains that most improvements made by the GLS come within three categories; vocabulary, syntax and text design.

Keywords: German Language Society, legislative drafting tips

Published: 2002

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Research and journals

How politics can be used to improve the quality of legislation

This article summarises the drafting rules employed by the Presidents of the upper and lower houses of the Italian Parliament and the President of the Council of Ministers in Italy. These bodies have created a set of technical guidelines on the rules of coherence, the use of language and structure.

Keywords: Italy, coherence, legislative drafting, Legislation Committee

Published: 2002

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This page was last updated on August 17, 2016