ClearText is a text editor that limits you to the 1,000 most common English words. It was inspired by Randall Munro’s Thing Explainer, in which he explains complicated things like tectonic plates, microwaves, and the solar system using only those 1,000 words.

Why would you want this?

  1. For your website. Unless your potential clients are lawyers, using legalese and five-dollar words on your website will probably turn them off. Try using ClearText to force yourself to use words your potential clients are more likely to understand.
  2. For effective legal writing. Legalese is a plague. It makes justice less accessible by making it hard for non-lawyers to figure out what is going on in legal documents and courtrooms. And it makes your writing harder for anyone to understand, including other lawyers and judges. Try writing a brief or contract in ClearText to make it easier to read.

Is it practical? Probably not. Actually it’s kind of frustrating. One thousand words aren’t a lot, it turns out. I thought it would be fun to write this post in ClearText, but I gave up.

If you have to do verbal gymnastics instead of just explaining what liability is and then using that word, you aren’t actually increasing readability. You are probably better off running your website copy through a Flesch–Kincaid readability tester like Flesh and aiming for about a sixth-grade reading level.

Still, give it a try. See if you can write your website bio or describe your practice area in ClearText. After all, nobody should have to reach for a dictionary just to find out who you are and what you do.