plain language resources–legal edition

This is the time of year when my provincial level students start focusing on how to write academic prose that is appropriately formal, yet still clear and concise.

During the course of their research projects, students come across academic writing that is dense, convoluted, and, sometimes, just bad. And yet, somehow these articles have been published in well-respected scholarly journals! It’s easy to draw the conclusion that not only is complicated, obtuse writing acceptable, but it is actually a mark of prestige–something to be emulated. (The fact that it is sometimes met with approval by other academics is another problem for another day.)

What do we do? Well, I try to show them examples of wordy/redundant/confusing writing and we develop ways to simplify the writing while retaining the original meaning.

I recently came across some good plain language style guides by Wayne Schiess (Legible blog) that I might use with my classes: they are written to encourage plain language for lawyers, but are good advice for anyone trying to improve clarity and style.

The whole blog is good, but here is a particularly useful series about writing concisely:

Tips for Concision 1: Don’t fear possessives

Tips for Concision 2: Remove redundancy

Tips for Concision 3: Diminish sesquipedalian vocabulary

Tips for Concision 4: Cut throat-clearing phrases

Tips for Concision 5: Eliminate excessive propositions

Tips for Concision 6: Deflate compound prepositions

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