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[Clarity for Lawyers, 1st edn]

1st edition


Publication details

Author: Mark Adler
Publisher: The Law Society of England and Wales
Publication date: October 1990
Paperback: 212 mm x 147 mm; vii + 128 pages
ISBN: 1 85328 087 9

Contents

What the critics said

Scribes Journal of Legal Writing (Vol 2: 1991)

In Clarity for Lawyers, Adler has managed to create a clever, inventive, and practical guide to legal writing. Adler approaches each topic in the same sensible way. He presents an example of deplorable legal prose and then analyzes it in a readable list, discussing each writing problem and providing suggestions for change. The book has an excellent page layout, with plenty of white space and a variety of fonts that clearly differentiate the examples from the text.

One possible problem with the book is its haphazard organization. Adler candidly confesses that he has never had the patience to plan, and the book manifests this trait. The first two chapters, for example, are entitled "what is wrong with legal writing?" and "How not to write". Although the organizational flaws might make the book slightly inconvenient for use in a legal-writing course, they are not a significant obstacle to understanding.

The book's distinctively British flavor may distract some American readers. For example, Adler uses words such as spoilt and whilst and follows British rules for punctuation and relative pronouns. But Adler is a skilful writer with a wry sense of humor. He weaves into his text clever puns, delightful parodies, and expressive metaphors. An unpretentious slender volume, Clarity for Lawyers brims with wit and colorful language.

Legal Action

This book is a solid, readable and interesting contribution to the move for greater intelligibility by lawyers. Mark Adler's key lists of forbidden phrases and their replacements should be circulated as widely as possible. These include buried verbs (eg substitute 'I have' or 'I have received' for 'I am in receipt of'); redundant words (use 'before' instead of 'prior to'); removal of useless additional words (eg no need to put 'mutually' in front of 'agreed'); and use the shortest word (eg 'buy' for 'purchase').

The rest of the book is full of helpful hints, browsing among which would benefit almost all lawyers. Active verbs are better than passive ones. Short sentences are better than long ones. It is written in a nice breezy style, as one would expect from the chairman of Clarity.

Journal of the Association of Law Teachers

A problem for those writing about clear writing is that readers of their work will take a closely critical look at it in the hope that the authors themselves can be accused of lack of clarity or, even better, be found to have used short and simple sentences which can be seen as ambiguous. Mark Adler is not open to these charges. Not only is the book well written throughout but it proceeds in a clear and sensible order. What is more the layout of the pages makes great efforts to add to clarity by a proper use of white space and a justifiable attempt at using different type faces.

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