From the foreword


Lord Neuberger, then President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom:
… In all these circumstances, a book on clear drafting for lawyers is to be welcomed, and a good book on the topic is to be greatly welcomed. Mark Adler and Daphne Parry have written a good book on the topic, and it is a pleasure to write this foreword to the third edition. The book is engagingly written and well structured. Many parts of the book can be read through almost as much for pleasure as for instruction, as they can be regarded as a collection of anecdotes or cautionary tales. That is because the authors very sensibly realise that by far the best way to make their point is by way of examples. Finally, I would venture to suggest that anyone who is engaged in communication, whether in writing or by word of mouth, could profit from reading this book.

Adverse comments with discussion (each set opening as a pdf file)


Adrian Jack (a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar), criticising the lease precedent on pages 241 - 248 pad added 18.7.18.

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Reviews


Duncan Berry (The Loophole) added 15.10.18
Sue Bramall (Amazon) added 21.3.18
Peter Butt (Australian Law Journal) added 11.7.18
Martin Cutts (Plain Language Commission blog) added 2.6.18
"Joe K" (Amazon) added 21.3.18
Michael McParland QC (Counsel Magazine) added 6.11.18
T.N.G. Norman (Amazon)
David Pickup (The Law Society's Gazette)
Simon Rainey QC and Sam Dunkley (Journal of World Energy Law & Business) added 5.6.18
Elizabeth and Phillip Taylor (Amazon, YouTube) new version added 1.4.18
Peter Todd (Managing for Success) added 1.4.18


Duncan Berry, consultant parliamentary counsel, in The Loophole (Sep 2018)
The book … provides an extremely comprehensive coverage of the topic. It is engagingly written and well structured. I found [it] not only instructive but also entertaining, with its many pertinent examples, amusing anecdotes and cautionary tales. As the authors very sensibly realise, by far the best way to argue their case is through the use of examples. …

The authors convincingly demonstrate how lawyers can write more effectively. In so doing, they canvas a large range of topics relevant to producing this outcome. …

I commend this book to every lawyer who engages in any form of legal writing, whether it be writing letters to clients, drafting leases or other kinds of contracts, writing judgements or drafting legislation. Bearing in mind that relatively few university law faculties and professional law institutions conduct even optional courses on effective legal writing (let alone compulsory ones), I urge all solicitors and other lawyers engaged in legal writing not only to have this book in their libraries but also to read the book and to implement the excellent advice that it contains.

I would further venture to suggest that not just lawyers but anyone who is engaged in written communication could benefit from reading this excellent book and from practicing what it preaches.

Sue Bramall of Berners Marketing, marketing consultant to law firms, on Amazon
This should be on the syllabus of every law school in the country - it really is not enough to know the law if you cannot communicate its implications to your clients in a way that they understand and are comfortable with. Daphne Perry and Mark Adler have covered all the usual bad habits that occur in legal drafting in a pithy and no-nonsense way. Points are made and bad practice demonstrated with often amusing and enlightening examples from recent cases. I would not expect to say this of a non-fiction book but I found it was a very enjoyable read.

And in PM Magazine, published by Practice Management International

[T]his is a book which outlines the very best practices in good writing. These good practices could apply in any professional sphere, but are wonderfully specific to writing about the law and illustrated with examples which immediately drive the point home.

…[It begins] with 30 pages on what is wrong with traditional legal writing. The list of 16 indisputable reasons include that it wastes time and money, is imprecise and can cause unnecessary mistakes, it alienates clients, their advisers and judges and as I have often found is "as dull as lead (and almost as indigestible)".

The next section discusses what makes good writing, and how good writing helps to convey information about the law accurately, precisely, efficiently and persuasively. …

I particularly enjoyed the authors' often pithy tone: "Let us call a spade a spade, though as eloquently as possible". …

This book should be obligatory reading for every law student, and every lawyer who would like to improve their communication skills, and every communications professional who works with lawyers.

Peter Butt, emeritus professor of law, University of Sydney, in the Australian Law Journal
… [The] authors clearly share a passion for clear, direct, legal writing. This comes through in their writing, for they practise what they preach. [The] book offers detailed practical advice on how to write with clarity, brevity and legal precision. … [It] will appeal to … law students, academics, practising lawyers and legislative drafters.

… Adler/Perry start by examining some of the problems with traditional legal writing. This subject matter will be familiar to many readers of books about plain legal language. Topics include: judicial criticisms of traditional legal language; the inefficiencies of contorted language; and the ways in which convoluted legal language can mask not merely typographical mistakes but errors of substance. Yet, though the ground is well-trodden, the treatment is fresh, persuasive and engaging. Adler/Perry then move to examine the true nature of plain language, and why some lawyers still oppose it.

Next comes what many will regard as the core of the book: the techniques for writing and drafting in plain language. Interestingly (and for me, properly), the authors start with matters of structure and organisation – formatting, fonts, formulas, and the like. In this, their work reflects a change in the focus of plain language advocacy. In the early days of the revived plain language movement, writers tended to focus almost entirely on finer points of language – such as word choice (simpler, not complex), sentence length (shorter, not longer), active vs passive (prefer active) and verbs vs nouns (prefer verbs). But the “revived” plain language movement recognises that “larger” matters of structure, organisation and layout are crucial to effective communication. Adler/Perry give these matters the priority they deserve.

Then follow chapters on punctuation (“use it”, they recommend), redundancy (“avoid it”, they urge), definitions (“be more thoughtful about them”), word choice (“lighten up”), and sentence length (“shorter is better”). There are also useful chapters on how to make writing more persuasive, and on computer aids to better writing (including readability-testing). The book then moves to important chapters about avoiding vagueness and ambiguity, and ends with fascinating overviews of the principal rules of legal interpretation – on the premise that a good legal writer should know not only how to write but also how judges are likely to interpret what they write.

Throughout, Adler/Perry include clear illustrations of the various matters they discuss. As Lord Neuberger notes in his Foreword to the book, the authors “very sensibly realise that by far the best way to make their point is by examples” (p xi). Valuable appendices give before-and-after examples of legal drafting. Some of these examples the authors draw from recent UK decisions; others they draw from correspondence, legal documents and statutes. All illuminate the discussion in the text.

Martin Cutts, director of the Plain Language Commission, on the PLC blog:
A book is dull if it states the obvious in a boring way. This book states the obvious – that clarity in legal writing is a good thing and that it can be achieved by using some reasonably straightforward tactics – but it remains fresh, funny and engaging throughout. At 270 pages it’s a lot to read at one sitting, but studying a chapter a day on the train to work will provide a month of what lawyers are wont to call ‘quiet enjoyment’. There ought to be a health warning, though. Among lawyers rooted in the old ways of self-important verbosity and complacent obscurity, the book could cause life-changing medical conditions. It will be interesting to see how many copies the Law Society can sell to lawyers in India, for example, where Raj-day loquacity and flatulent orotundity are still the crooked backbone of much legal writing and speech. …

I like that the book takes its own advice. It’s written in clear, unstuffy English and backs up its assertions with evidence. …

The book is essential reading for UK-based lawyers (the primary audience) but its principles are relevant in all English-speaking jurisdictions.

"Joe K" on Amazon
Now in its third edition, this excellent book only gets better. It covers all aspects of clear legal writing: the deficiencies of traditional style, the considerable advantages of plain language, the misconceptions about it, the evidence for its effectiveness, the means to achieving it (the book’s largest section), and much more. The book is chock-full of before-and-after examples that are bound to sharpen the judgment and skill of legal drafters. Just get it. Highly recommended.

Michael McParland QC, commercial silk, in Counsel Magazine
This a very enjoyable, practical and persuasive guide for any lawyer who wants to improve their use of language. Indeed, as Lord Neuberger writes in his foreword, ‘anyone who is engaged in communication, whether in writing or by word of mouth, could profit from reading this book’. …

As a Law Society publication, it naturally leans more towards the work of solicitors but barristers will also benefit from the guidance provided.

The US federal judge, Elijah Barrett Prettyman, famously said that ‘the lawyer’s greatest weapon is clarity, and its whetstone is succinctness’…. This book will help any lawyer who wants to achieve both.

T.P.G. Norman, solicitor, on Amazon
Packed full of useful, career-enhancing pearls of wisdom. And it's fun to read too. I keep my copy by my bedside.

David Pickup, solicitor, in The Law Society's Gazette
… There is much for all to learn in this book. …

Simon Rainey QC and Sam Dunkley in Journal of World Energy Law & Business
[Adler & Perry's] text is commendably succinct and gives a comprehensive overview of effective drafting, and can be absorbed relatively quickly. They break down the topic, starting with a bracing analysis of ‘What is wrong with traditional legal writing?’, moving on to consider what makes good writing good (in any sphere: underscoring that a letter, an opinion, terms and conditions all represent the same task) and identifying the need to identify one’s aims before one moves to the keyboard and to think first, rather than to search out the old contract or the precedent book. …

The book closes with an interesting analysis of how misunderstandings arise, giving the wider context as to why things may be ambiguous, eg based on a reader’s expectations, which may in turn be created by the language, and the loss in a written text of non-textual clues which in spoken English tend (but not always) to obviate ambiguity. Derek Bentley’s ‘let him have it Chris’, cited by them, remains a striking example. Throughout, the text is supported by reference to linguistic and other academic specialists.

The book is light on English law legal principles of interpretation (whether one sees them as Lord Hoffmann’s ‘old baggage’ or as more useful, in the light of the return of the Supreme Court in recent cases such as Arnold v Britton to focussing on the language). This is not a disadvantage as that is not the purpose of the book, and the field is well covered elsewhere …. The book sets out, rather, to teach us to look at how and why we write, usually in legalese, as we do and to show us ways of avoiding it. It succeeds completely in this aim.

Adler and Perry are to be congratulated on producing such an accessible, intelligent and informative work, in less than 250 pages of text. It is also a very good and entertaining read ….

Elizabeth Robson Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers and Phillip Taylor MBE, Head of Chambers and Reviews Editor, The Barrister, on Amazon (with an extended, oral, version on YouTube):
It’s a rare privilege to be asked to review this new third edition of Mark Adler’s definitive work on “Clarity for Lawyers”, now co-written with Daphne Perry, as we regard the book as a professional lifesaver.

There is a recurring theme that many senior lawyers, judges and academics raise regularly about the low quality of written communication across the business world so we welcome the decision by the Law Society to update this important title for the 2020s. …

One of the principle benefits of the new edition is the approach which we all need to adopt with the advent of IT which has lengthened documents. The language we use is also changing again so the section on “choosing words” explains much for us. …

The three appendices are particularly helpful, especially Appendix A which is “a legal writing workshop”. Do follow through the various sections and try the practical exercises. Appendix B gives a highly practical “analysis of examples” which you need to cross refer to the main text pages, and Appendix C offers brilliantly “hands on” precedents which are invaluable.

The final word must be left to Mark and Daphne who say that their aim is to help lawyers work more effectively and more efficiently. Their aim succeeds admirably. …

The two authors want this book to be “more interesting and readable than just a style guide” in the hope it will sometimes surprise us. Yes, it does, because it is a very good book which should be by your side as an excellent companion for the 2020s. …

Peter Todd, solicitor, training partner at Hodge Jones & Allen LLP, in Managing for Success, published by The Law Society
For over 20 years, I have worked with trainee solicitors who have taken a civil litigation seat at my firm. They spend six months in their seat, often in the early stages of their training. …

If I could ask [them] to do one thing before starting their seat with me, it would be to carefully read and learn from Clarity for Lawyers. … It is one of those legal books every lawyer should have read.

I read it myself when I was starting my legal career and it had a real impact on me. It radically changed the way I approached the task of drafting — be it a humble attendance note, a letter of advice, a letter of claim, witness statement, statement of case, instructions to Counsel or any of the many documents which lawyers are required to draft. This book can help significantly improve the quality and effectiveness of drafting. …

The revelation of this book is that by simplifying and clarifying drafting, you avoid mistakes and become more effective. Witness statements gain probative weight as the key evidence drives home the case with power. Letters of advice are concise, precise and easy to understand.

This latest edition offers updated knowledge to reflect current law and practice and its new co-editor, Daphne Perry, commercial barrister and legal trainer, offers fresh and relevant insight. It also includes new training materials which would be useful for in-house legal training.

A good lawyer must have the ability to communicate effectively, to persuade, advocate, negotiate and explain. The latest edition of Clarity for Lawyers is a notable contribution to this.