by Mark Adler Print book  |  2nd ed
A BETTER LIFE WITH ADLER'S PLAIN ENGLISH   (2008-10-19)
Please tell all lawyers that they need this book...if only to give our clients confidence in us and the legal profession generally! Apart from well-known pompous judges (we have their names) and even more pompous civil servants employed in the court service (when they are not on strike), lawyers have a reputation for bad writing when traditional legal writing becomes a bad habit and requires simple modernisation.
Read it straight through!
I suggest you read 'Adler on Clarity', starting at the beginning when Adler writes that "this book is intended to give lawyers a better life". It does just that! The book succeeds in doing so brilliantly, and in a friendly manner. Adler has drawn from highly authoritative sources to make his point, including comments from the late Professor John Adams, acknowledging a list of distinguished personal contributors, and Lord Bingham's acute observation that "you cannot write clearly unless you know clearly what it is you want to say".
The Structure of the Book
There are 5 sections: - What's wrong with legal writing? - Alternative ways to communicate - How to make legal writing more effective - The common law rules of interpretation - A plain language workshop.
Each section builds up to provide a detailed guide to effective legal writing with a robust indictment of traditional legal language. The key is plain language which provides successful communication with clients, colleagues and the world in general.
It is plain language not pomposity which prevents ambiguity and mistakes to save your firm time and money as well as expressing a message effectively and in an approachable manner. I was interested in the sections on emails and websites which no doubt will expand with the third edition as these new methods of communication transform our lives.
I see 'Clarity' as a publication to be recommended in publications such as "Which" magazine, and its organisation, the Consumers’ Association, plus all the consumer groups trying to establish modern rules of writing "fit for purpose" (an unfortunate phrase) in 21st century. Probably the greatest benefit to lawyers is the working examples throughout showing how legalese can be rewritten into plain English.
Just reading the old law reports illustrate such changes and Adler’s attack on ‘inflated’ language is well placed here. I liked the conclusion in his preface when he refers to the ‘robust attitude from the trial bench’ (we have all suffered that) which he hopes will ‘soon force the offenders to abandon their affectations’.
If the reader does not look at any other chapter, please read chapter 20 on ‘choosing words’. It is always the dream of examiners, with their itchy red pens, to delete, prune or ‘trim’ what isn’t necessary when marking a paper- Adler shows us what to do to erase gobbledegook, and he gets full marks for it.
Thank you for an excellent contribution to the study of 21st century English language - let’s make this work a set book for all learners in the future.
PHILLIP TAYLOR MBE LL.B (Hons) PGCE Barrister-at-Law
Richmond Green Chambers
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