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Structure and language of legal texts

Structure and language of legal texts
Pentru un jurist este importantă atît arta vorbirii, cît și cea a scrierii. Pentru a f
cît mai corect înțeles, sunt anumite reguli de redactare a textelor necesare de
respectat. Prezenta lucrare are ca scop aducerea la cunoștință a celor mai
improtante reguli utilizate în scrierea actelor juridice. Consider că pentru fecare
jurist care dorește sa fe credibil și convingător este obligatoriu cunoașterea
normelor existente de scriere. Ca obiective articolul dat are informarea studenților
referitor la limbajul și structura textelor juridice, pentru a se face ințeleși de cei ce
le vor citi, pentru a da dovada de profesionalism și respectiv a atrage încrederea
celorlalți. Prezenta lucrare are menirea de a ajuta pe cei care întocmesc acte
juridice, de a reuși să-și formuleze corect gindurile pe foaie. În cocluzie, chiar dacă
unora din noi li s-ar părea că deja cunosc regulile necesare redactării unui astfel de
text, este benefc de a ști acele reguli, care sunt recunoscute și cerute de toți.

Introduction
“The power of clear statement is the greatest power at the bar.” Daniel
Webster
Language is the lawyer’s tool, and so not surprisingly lawyers seem to
have developed their own language – commonly called ‘legalese’. Legal
language has attracted a significant amount of criticism over time. A writer
called Will Rogers made the comment that ‘the minute that you read
something and you can’t understand it, you can be sure that it was written
by a lawyer’. When writing a legal text, one shall take in count some rules. In
this article will be information about the elements that a good written
communication must contain. It will be stated the factor that makes a simple
communication becomes an effective one, for example: the importance of
considering the person for whom the message is intended, and the words
that are selected and how they are formed into sentences. For this I will
mention the techniques of plane language writing that will help to develop a
better technique of writing legal texts. Some legal writing texts start out by
explaining how legal writing is different from other writing. But it should not
be. While certain documents—complaints, briefs, deeds—may have a
standard form, their content should be in plain English. [1, 4].

What is plain language?
Plain language is language that is clear and understandable— and as
simple as the situation allows. Legal language that is plain poses special
challenges, but is not impossible. Plain language inspires confidence in both
the reader and the writer. Clear writing is evidence of clear thinking; garbled
thinking produces garbled language. If your thinking is clear, you can be
confident. [2, 5].
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 Don't use compound prepositions and other wordy expressions when the same meaning can be conveyed with one or two words. In some respects. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short. and preferences of those individuals [1. but that every word tell. Every word that is not a help is a hindrance because it distracts." Three good things happen when you combat verbosity: your readers read faster. your own clarity is enhanced. want their audience to understand their messages. in particular to the doctrine of precedent. Example: DON'T SAY SAY because of the fact that since 2 . brevity and clarity if he wants his writing to be effective. If you are communicating to a court. This opinion is sustained by many scientists. . This relates. Lawyers become stuck on these formulas as tried and true. and your writing has greater impact. identifying your audience is the most important aspect of legal writing. like all others. So as we assume that legal writers. lawyers then tend to believe that that word or phrase. A sentence should contain noun necessary words. the first rule is to know your audience. simplicity. When a word or phrase is given a judicial interpretation. or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline. Some lawyers are still reluctant to launch into plain English or plain language. so that they were understood by people without legal training. one who finds a brief terse and concise will read every word.7] Strunk and White say: "Vigorous writing is concise. . and therefore regard them. the members of the court. A judge who realizes that a brief is wordy will skim it. takes on magical and immutable qualities: a meaning which is not subject to challenge. [3. [3. they should know the audience to whom they are writing. know the court— be familiar with the local rules and practices. 48] In all writings. . 46] Thirst question that one should put to himself must be: Who will be the reader? By knowing it. 7] Brevity. you will be able to choose the appropriate style of writing. a paragraph no unnecessary sentences .Structure and language of legal texts Should plain language be used in legal writing? In my opinion lawyer should use a simple language. clarity A lawyer must respect the rule of simplicity. [4.

you’d be better to write it as if you were speaking it and then polish it for the appropriate level of formality. The time you spend searching for a precise and strong 3 . 19] The passive voice is appropriate when the actor is unknown. Many times the passive voice forces readers to take extra mental steps as they convert the passive into the active. if you want to write clear lucid prose. unimportant. because it may cause some confusions. while active voice makes the person/thing that makes the actions. virtually causing information to spring from the page.Structure and language of legal texts (because) call your attention to the fact that remind you in many cases often in the nature of like […]don’t think of written legal language as so vastly different from spoken English. Also. or obvious. [6. [5. More over using passive voice may lead to a more complicated and longer structure of the sentence. In fact.  Active voice: The drafter [actor] wrote [verb] the regulation [receiver]. especially forms of “to be” or “to have” that you’ll find. the usual order of words in a sentence is disturbed. This does not usually apply in regulatory text. highlighting all the verbs can help. For example:  Passive voice: The regulation [receiver] was written [verb] by the drafter [actor]. when we use passive voice. 17] Using the active voice While writing a legal text we shall avoid passive voice. Readers understand sentences in the active voice more quickly and easily because it follows how we think and process information. When you start to rewrite or edit your work. You may be surprised by the number of weak verbs. Strong verbs Strong verbs are guaranteed to liven up and tighten any sentence.

19]. you will use the past tense if you are writing about an event that has already occurred. and you will use the future tense if you are writing about an event which is going to occur.  before We will provide appropriate information to shareholders concerning…  after We will inform shareholders about… Synonyms Also we should be attentive at the words that seem to have the same meaning. is better to use must. For example instead of shall. Similarly. Usually weak verbs can be changed with strong ones. Using a synonym rather than repeating the precise term you intend just confuses the reader. get to the point and say what you mean. [6. 59] Present tense Scientists recommend to use in our legal text. It is not advisable to use more words to describe the same characteristic of a single thing. SAY: Each automobile owner must register his or her automobile with the Automobile Division of the Metropolitan Police Department. DON'T SAY: Each motor vehicle owner must register his or her car with the Automobile Division of the Metropolitan Police Department. present tense. [3. [3. you can dispense with many of the words used to bolster weak verbs. The present tense is more engaging and immediate to the reader.will. Of course. and in this way we can avoid some complicated and awkward forms of the verbs. The best advice is to delete them! Instead. Variation for the sake of variation has no place in regulation writing. it makes our work sound up-to-date. to predict future actions. lawyers often use what Asprey describes as ‘word strings’ – a kind of throat clearing ritual: It is important to note that At this point in time We refer to previous correspondence and now advise as follows These can sound insincere. When a verb carries more meaning.55] 4 .Structure and language of legal texts verb is time well spent.

Future: The courts are going to enforce the marijuana laws despite community opposition.27]  before Persons other than the primary benefciary may not receive these dividends. [6. but in writing they deaden the impact. DON'T SAY SAY not honest dishonest did not remember forgot did not pay any attention to ignored did not remain at the meeting left the meeting Delete hollow modifiers In speech intensifiers create emphasis and vitality.11] 5 . Write positively Sometimes we can express our ideas both positively and negatively. it is recommended for us to opt for the positive variant Positive sentences are shorter and easier to understand than their negative counterparts. Past: The courts have enforced the marijuana laws despite community opposition.Structure and language of legal texts Present: The courts enforce the marijuana laws despite community opposition.  after Only the primary benefciary may receive these dividends. [4.

common words Jargon is not welcomed in a legal text. We must use common words that are understandable for the readers. [7. As strategies they areineffective and they can be costly to you and your client. 24] Replace jargon and legalese with short. don’t create new jargon that’s unique to your document in the form of acronyms or other 6 . Consider asking someone outside the industry to check your work for incomprehensible words. people also pay attention to how credible our text sounds. Instead. 34] Honesty Besides all the technical features. everything you write thereafter will be suspect. Avoid these pitfalls. obviously. Don't inflate an incident to make it more outlandish than it actually was. and not worth taking.Structure and language of legal texts Avoid lazy adverbs and adjectives like clearly. completely. extremely. It's too great a risk. Instead.” Lapses in honesty occur in many ways: exaggeration. [6. Example: say Not supported by any evidence instead of completely baseless. As Zinsser said :"Credibility is just as fragile for a writer as for a President. We shall do our best in order to formulate our text correctly. A long sentence often fails without a parallel structure. Note the quotation in the margin. common words to get your points across. In those instances where there is no plain English alternative. explain what the term means when you first use it. It is better to avoid gender specific words. such as nouns or verbs. We must seem honest. occasionally write unparallel sentences.3] Keep your sentence structure parallel Ideas should be arranged parallel in the sentences. This is important when using a list. let your description of your idea convey its strength by using precise words. The best way to rid your document of them is to read through it once solely to find these mistakes. regardless of their degree of expertise. it may be hard to spot jargon and legalese in your writing. or disregarding the standard of review. very. simply. Reading your document aloud can make unparallel constructions easier to spot. If you have been in the financial or legal industry for awhile. [4. Ruthlessly eliminate jargon and legalese. use short. All writers. If the reader catches you in just one bogus statement that you are trying to pass off as true. omission. Last. misstatement. plainly. Parallelism simply means ensuring a list or series of items is presented using parallel parts of speech.

It remains the same as in other English sentences. It should express just one idea. the rules of writing a sentence does not change. the design is very important. There are also some other factors that may ruin our text: spelling errors. It’s asking too much of your readers to memorize a new vocabulary while they are trying to understand complicated concepts.Structure and language of legal texts words. workforce Sentence structure While writing a legal text. which is a sentence should make but one statement. 7 . mechanics. as do our facial expressions and intonation when we are speaking. What I want to emphasize is more about the content that a sentence has. Structure Like in every text. It may affect the opinion of the readers. etc. Two ideas equal two sentences. they distinguish the different levels of the content. The way we structured our information influence on the readers. dictions. Just remember the basic rule in sentence structure. 30] DON'T SAY SAY Crewman Crew member Draftsman Drafter Foreman Supervisor Manhours Hours worked Manpower Personnel. When information is well organized it makes easier to understand. [3. 54] Punctuation Punctuation adds meaning to our writing as well as bringing it alive. [6.

there should be no more than six levels in the document. assert your thesis. Paragraph’s text  Limit each paragraph to a single point. [6. Follow the heading with a sentence using the heading's key terms and details. 5. 8 . Edit headings repeatedly in the Table of Contents [4. As a rule of thumb. After your transition phrase or sentence. using key terms and details. Format: Bold and lower case. excluding the document’s title.Structure and language of legal texts Well-organized documents and cogent paragraphs are the main featuresthat distinguish great from pedestrian legal writers.. 39] Headings 1.  Open with striking facts. It usually is formed by a single sentence and states what the information from the text will be about.  Early in each paragraph. 6. Sometimes you might begin with a transition sentence that connects your paragraph to the point you made in the prior paragraph. Be brief (two lines or less). 1] A typical hierarchy in the prospectus might include: • The document title • Section headings (first level) • Subsection headings (second level) • Paragraph headings (third level) • General text (fourth level) Designers use different typefaces in the headings to distinguish these levels for the reader. [7.e. 4. 2. 38] Paragraph headings Paragraph represents concise information on a specific topic. lay out your thesis (i.1] Ways to begin a paragraph:  State the contrary premise and then refute it. Assert a complete point. your Conclusion). [7.

16] Typefaces For emphasis it is welcomed to use bold. And you should know that if you create an en-tire document—especially a long one—in asans-serif type. it is mandatory to know at least the most important rules. The style adopted by lawyers is an official one and has some specifc features. [5. Cheryl Stephens. a serifed font is best—other than the advice to use a contrasting font for the headings. “Plain Language Wizardry: Plain Language Legal Writing” 9 . People do not prefer full justification. not like judges” 2.  Ask a question and then answer it. you will give it an informal or “light” feel. at the ends of the strokes. “30 suggestions to improve readability or how to write for judges. Conclusion In conclusion. In order to prove that a person is capable and professional there appears the necessity of the ability of writing in an appropriate way. I hope this article will be useful for those who want to acquire effectively and quickly skill in writing legal texts Bibliography 1. You may center the title of your text Fonts You should know the difference between a serifed font and a sans-serif font: •Times New Roman and CG Times are serifed fonts because the letters have the small ex-tensions. it is better to use left alignment. People like to see what they expect. italics or underlining. only knowledge in this domain sometimes may be not enough. if a person wants to become a successful lawyer.Structure and language of legal texts  Open with a quote. Painter. or serifs. Text alignment In a legal text it is better to use the most common way of editing a text. • Arial is a sans-serif font because it has no serifs. For legal documents. In this case. Judge Mark p. that’s why for a future jurist.

“ Persuasive legal writing” 5. U. Smith.S. Claire Valkenberg and Helen Walsh. “Legal Research and Writing” 4. “ Essentials of Effective legal writing” 10 .Structure and language of legal texts 3. Wayne Schiess. Beth Finch. Will Cowley. Daniel U. Professors Danielle Citron and David Super. “The five legal writing principles” 6. Jennifer Nielsen. Securities and Exchange Commission. “A Plain English Handbook” 7.