SAFM (Word of Mouth show) recently interviewed Andrew Weeks on plain language and the law. Lawyers are said to be one of the worst culprits when it comes to using language that is verbose, but is there a reason for this?
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Part 1: 00:00 – 08:45
SAFM introduces Andrew Weeks, who begins tackling the topic by giving his opinion on these questions and others:
- Are lawyers suppose to draft contracts with their clients interests in mind or draft them in such a way that both parties are satisfied?
- Why do people, lawyers in particular, use language that is not plain?
- Should legal documents follow a format, or be re-drafted per client?
- Why do we find phrases that are redundant and misleading in a lawyers vocabulary?
Part 2: 08:45 – 22:00
Andrew Weeks talks about methods you can use to avoid speaking verbosely, i.e. using shorter sentences, and using one idea per sentence. New questions are brought up and discussed on the topic of plain language:
- The reason contracts are usually drawn up using the passive voice?
- Why are contracts often drafted in a negative light?
- What are ‘pleadings’? [private]
- Will plain language ever become the default language for contracts?
- What are the requirements for plain language?
The speakers discuss the UK solution to the problem of language that is not plain in formal agreements, whereby they have a legal definition as well as a plain language explanation. Should the rest of the world follow suit? Another method that has been employed, particularly in the field of copyright, is the machine readable licence. Computers can read this document and it defines what they are and are not allowed to do online.