clear-legal-writingOne of the biggest problems with The Law is that it does not make much sense without a translator. This is why so many clients ask lawyers to translate legalese into plain English.

This can be a serious problem. For example, I spent the morning in court yesterday, watching debt collectors get bench warrants on orders to show cause. The reason none of the debtors showed up was because they did not know what “order to show cause” and “contempt” mean. Nobody translated those words into “show up or you will get arrested.” If someone had, most of those debtors would have showed up, and on time.

It takes longer for human brains to process words like “plaintiff” and “contempt” into “Mr. Jones” and “jail time.” That goes for Latin words, five-syllable words, and any other words that require mental translation.

If you want to be understood, do not force your listeners (or readers) to translate. Instead, say what you mean, and be understood.

(photo: ScrappyShackLori)