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 behavioral 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. We can also draft one for you or help you with issues around yours. Like deciding what is suitable for your specific organisation. We can also convert your documents into plain language and train your people on plain legal language.