The Plain Language Movement

Mark Adler

in The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199572120
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 The Plain Language Movement

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  • Linguistics
  • Forensic Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology


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A discipline that might eventually become known as ‘plain language studies’ is beginning to emerge through the collaboration of individual plain language proponents (plainers for short). In 2008, the two main international umbrella organizations (Clarity and PLAIN) and the Center for Plain Language in the United States set up a joint working group to develop what they hoped would eventually become internationally recognized professional standards and accreditation. Law is only one aspect of the plain legal language movement; some plainers promote plain medicine, others plain government, plain technical writing, plain finance, and plain scientific papers. Some legal plainers are linguists, writers, editors, or legal translators. Some are practising lawyers who write plainly for their clients. This article provides a brief history of the plain legal language movement, discusses the advantages and disadvantages of using plain language to write legal documents, and examines attitudes to plain legal language. Finally, it considers plain language drafting techniques and presents an example of traditional writing made plain.

Keywords: law; legal language; plain language; drafting; lawyers; legal documents

Article.  5837 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Forensic Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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