Get a Legal Style Guide to deal with the practical issues regards language and guide the use of language in a consistent manner. It is also sometimes referred to as a Plain Language Guideline or a Guide to Clear Communication. It is important that, as an organisation, everyone agrees to write in a certain way. For example:
- How do you refer to your organisation?
- How are you going to write numbers?
- What spacing are you going to use?
- Are there any brands that must appear in a certain way?
- What font size are you going to use?
How you benefit from a Legal Style Guide
- Determine and agree the style that your organisation will use
- Portray a positive and professional public image
- Enhance your brand
- Establish your brand’s voice
- Avoid having to edit documents again
- Achieve consistency with your documents
- Get everyone on the same page
- Create a training tool and make employees aware
What should be in it?
A style guide should be designed for quick and effective reading. It is an easy quick reference guide. Useful and practical. It can include:
- The principles of plain language (for example, use the first person, and always refer to the organisation in a certain way)
- Guidelines for punctuation and design
- Specific regulatory requirements (for example, a regulatory board requiring double spacing)
- Specific guidelines for (and a sample of) a letter, email, fax, and internal memo, and an agreement
- Guidelines for communications
- A checklist to check that a document is in plain language
- Word lists
- Further reading – good books and resources that people can read
When should you do this?
It should be done as soon as possible, but especially at the beginning of a project to convert documents into plain language. You want to agree on your style first before you start drafting.
Who does a Legal Style Guide apply to?
It is for all medium to large organisations. The organisations that will find it especially useful are:
- insurance companies
- law firms
How do I get a Legal Style Guide?
You can find various general style guides on the Internet. For example:
- APA Style Guide for people in the social and behavioural sciences
- Microsoft Style Guides for many different languages
- Brand Style Guides for your corporate image
- The Economist Style Guide for their writers
You can also find an excellent free legal style guide online at Adobe that you can use.
How we can help you
- Have a customised legal style guide that is suitable for your specific organisation by asking us to draft one for you or customise the Adobe Legal Style Guide.
- Transform your existing documents into clear communications by asking us to convert your documents into plain language.
- Encourage people to start drafting in plain language by asking us to train your people on plain legal language.