In a post earlier this year (which still gets an amazing amount of traffic) I referenced George Orwell’s 6 Rules for writing. Now, a legal scholar has written a piece on how Orwell’s advice can improve the law, with lots of examples of judges scolding lawyers for their poor writing.
Judith Fischer documents how the rules seem to guide judges, lawyers and legislative drafters. However, she observes that misleading legal language continues to torture the sensibility of readers and pollute public discourse. (Did you know the Patriot Act has its origins in an acronym?)
The big assumption here is that lawyers have a moral duty to “elevate legal language and public discourse” in a way that does not mislead their audience. Orwell would agree. Do you?
- Fischer, Judith D., “Why George Orwell’s Ideas About Language Still Matter for Lawyers” http://ssrn.com/abstract=990624
Hat tip goes to Library Boy, who has good coverage of the plain language movement in the legal profession.