About Simple English

Language of the law – as it popularly exists – is difficult to understand for those who do not belong to a law related profession or background. However, there is no doubt about the fact that common people are the subjects of law and thus they should be able to understand it. How can they access the protection of law if they don’t understand it?

This difficult manner and use of language to present the law is popularly known as “legalese”. Legalese is the use of fancy and difficult words, tone, language etc. to write legal text such as legislation, judicial orders, decrees etc. For example, use of passive voice, uncommon words (words from Latin, French, old English, etc.), compound construction etc.

  • USA – Plain Writing Act of 2010 – requires federal communication to be in simple language.

  • In 1990s England, the Magic Circle Top 5 firms started using simple language and this prompted widespread use and acceptance.

  • Manuals to replace legalese with simple English exists in UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada etc.

  • Notable changes in Australia, New Zealand and England has also taken place.

  • In South Africa, the entire Constitution was re-written.

Some of these include:

Legalese has become a problem over time whereby people have been calling for revision of the language used in law to be – simple, easy-to-understand and effective. This movement has developed manifold and achieved some success in different parts of the world, including USA, England, New Zealand, South Africa etc.

In India, the call for the use of simple language in courts and legislation has existed for quite some time now. Supreme Court has time and again expressed astonishment at the language used. Even industry stakeholders like experienced professionals and law teachers resonate with the call for the widespread use of simple language.

Law teachers form one of the first influential figure of authority that a law student encounters as newcomer in the field. They are thus the best people to give effect to the change and shift from legalese to simple language.

Law teachers can do a lot to tackle legalese. Let us look at few of the resources that can help them along the way.

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