This site is a free public resource for lawyers, legal linguists, and anyone else interested in the language lawyers use. It concentrates on written rather than spoken language for no better reason than that is my main interest. It continues my 30-year campaign against legalese but is not restricted to the plain language v. legalese debate and will, I hope, promote effective legal writing.

The dates on the left indicate the most recent addition or improvement to each page. Green dates highlight recent changes.

I welcome ideas, examples (particularly of ambiguities in legal writing), and debate.

March 2015

I have expanded the introductory page of Legal style through the ages and have added a lightly annotated 1970 will that offers a sharp contrast to the 1854 and 2006 examples. 21 March: Since then I have been working on an Anglo-Saxon mutual will (see next paragraph), which I hope to post in April with notes and a translation.

In an article in this month's issue of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) journal I discuss and suggest a solution to the long-standing mutual wills problem — that is, how to make a pair of mirror wills ("All to each other and then to the children") proof against a defaulting survivor. Courtesy of STEP, the article can be downloaded from my mutual wills page, where there are explanatory notes and a downloadable specimen mutual will.

February 2015

A note explaining copyholds has been added to the analysis of the 1854 will under Legal style through the ages.

October 2014

I have corrected the menu links to Legal style through the ages and apologise to those who were misrouted.

September 2014

I have added a new page, Legal style through the ages, under which I have:

August 2014

The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law, to which I contributed a chapter, now has its own sub-page (accessible from my books and articles as well as from other writers) with new material, including substantial details of the rest of the book and a list of the topics covered in my chapter, The Plain Language Movement.

One of those topics was plain language drafting techniques, which I've slightly amended and given its own main page on this site as writing tips.

Translation tips is another new page, describing how I "translate" from legalese into a dialect as close to standard English as possible.

Some time ago I removed the pages describing my drafting and training services because I wasn't in a position to accept new work. I am now able to take on a limited amount, so have reinstated those pages.

March 2014

The Quotations page has been indexed and slightly reorganised.

August 2013

The short note Severing joint tenancies (in the "Updates" section of Clarity for Lawyers, under My publications) has attracted much more interest than I expected, so I've added my explanation to clients about joint tenancies and tenancies in common, one of the precedents offered at the end of the book, to the extracts downloadable from the Clarity for Lawyers page.

July 2013

As a curiosity, under the title A 6,000-word sentence, I've posted a brief discussion about the exceptional language and now unfamiliar structure of an 1853 conveyance, comparing it to its 1936 and 2013 equivalents as well as to a 19th century "abstract" of the 1853 version. There are links to the full text of each document.

April 2013

The latest article on the Comment page, Full disclosure, looks at a standard lease clause to examine the relationship between plain language, truth, and frankness, and develops the ideas expressed in an earlier piece, What is plain language (when there's more than one egg on the wall)?, about whether "plain language" is a useful concept.