technical communicator, technical communication, plain language, legal writing, legal documents
This thesis discusses the benefits of using plain language in legal documents and the role technical communicators can play to help implement plain language. Although many definitions for plain language exist, it is best described as reader-focused communication that presents information in a manner that makes it easy for a reader to find, understand, and use the information. Plain language facilitates comprehension by using shorter, less complex sentences; active voice; and common words. All these elements aid in processing and understanding information, especially unfamiliar concepts. Laypeople, unversed in the law, frequently have difficulty understanding traditional legal writing. The complex sentences, wordiness, and redundancy that characterize traditional legal writing often inhibit comprehension and become barriers to understanding. To demonstrate how plain language can improve legal writing, this thesis reviews before-and-after versions of documents that were revised to incorporate plain language as well as common documents that laypeople might encounter. The studies and research discussed in this thesis demonstrate that readers achieve greater comprehension with plain language documents. Technical communicators, the language experts, can work with legal professionals, the content experts, to help encourage plain language use in legal writing. By emphasizing plain language use in legal formbooks, law school courses, and continuing legal education courses, plain language will become more dominant. Technical communicators can work with governments and law firms to develop and run in-house writing programs. When organizations realize how plain language can benefit them, both economically as well as in improved consumer relations, they will be motivated to adopt plain language into their legal writing.
Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Bivins, Peggy, "Implementing Plain Language Into Legal Documents: The Technical Communicator's Role" (2008). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 3602.