Since the passage of the Federal Plain Writing Act on October 13, 2010, those who favor and promote the use of clear language have celebrated International Plain Language Day. The Act (Pub. L. 111-274) defines plain language as "writing that is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience." The purpose of the Act is to "improve the effectiveness and accountability of Federal agencies to the public by promoting clear Government communication that the public can understand and use." Although the intention of the law is to increase the clarity of our nation's official documents, communicating in simple language is a worthy goal in all areas, including law.
At the Harris County Law Library, we have several titles in our collection that will help you simplify and organize your writing. Thinking Like a Writer: A Lawyer's Guide to Effective Writing and Editing is one such title, and several CLE publications address the topic as well, including Exceptional Legal Writing and Legal Writing to Win. Bryan Garner, the undisputed dean of legal writing, is a strong proponent of plain language. His column, On Words, which is published monthly in the ABA Journal, is an exceptional resource for learning about the effective use of language in legal documents. An organization called Clarity, the international association for promoting plain legal language, is another useful source, as is their biannual journal, The Clarity Journal, which is distributed free to Clarity members. Past issues are available through the journal's online archive.
Reducing the complexity of legal writing is a worthwhile objective, and taking a day to recognize this effort is part of that goal. Join is in observing International Plain Language Day and the commitment to using effective communication in government and law.