Public Domain: Using Technical Communication to Improve Public Access to the Law
Communication builds the foundation for the law in the United States, as it involves ample verbal and written communication. Legal documents, such as legislation and case transcripts, enter the "public domain," so the public at large can freely access these documents. However, the complexity of the legal language and style severely limits the average citizen's ability to understand the contents. The same anomalies confront laypeople on juries. In the case of the law, intelligibility is a serious issue. Problems arise for laypeople when legal professionals do not consider the public. Legalese, the exceptionally abstruse legal vocabulary; Latin terms, which abound in legal language; and other legal writing style issues create serious difficulties for a lay audience. Effective technical communication conveys field-specific information with a level of technicality appropriate for the needs and experience of the target audience. Topics commonly studied in technical communication-such as audience analysis, a plain style, and usability testing-offer solutions to the problems that legal language causes. This study includes an examination of certain sections of the Florida Statutes and various case transcripts to identify deficiencies in making legal matters clear to the lay public. It also demonstrates the application of technical communication principles to improve public access to the law and advocates the involvement of technical communicators in the legal arena.
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Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
College of Arts and Sciences
English; Technical Writing
Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences; Law -- Language
Length of Campus-only Access
Honors in the Major Thesis
Callahan, Shannon, "Public Domain: Using Technical Communication to Improve Public Access to the Law" (2004). HIM 1990-2015. 373.