Billions could be saved if 'legalise' was replaced with plain language, author says

Global writing expert and Cooley Law Professor Joseph Kimble pleads the case

for clear language

By Cooley News Service

Thomas M. Cooley Law School Professor Joseph Kimble's latest book documents the untold savings possible if government, business, and the legal profession replaced their forbidding, verbose, unclear writing with plain language.

In "Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please: The Case for Plain Language in Business, Government, and Law," Kimble demonstrates the benefits of clear writing through 50 case studies, such as the $4.4 million the Veterans Benefits Administration saved by revising just one letter to millions of veterans.

Kimble also debunks the myths that using plain language creates documents that are not professional, precise, or legally accurate. According to Kimble, eliminating the confusion caused by "legalese" and "officialese" allows readers to more easily understand a document and act on it. The book cites a 2009 survey revealing that 75 percent of participants believe complexity and lack of understanding played a significant role in the worldwide financial crisis. A previous survey found that people had trouble understanding, for instance, how to use a cholesterol drug after reading the product-information sheet.

"Poor communication is the great hidden cost of doing business and governing," Kimble said. "Using plain language pays off for everyone in fewer mistakes, faster compliance, better decisions, and less frustration. Plain language could even help to restore faith in public institutions."

One survey showed that 84 percent of consumers are more likely to trust a company that uses jargon-free language in its communications.

"Besides," Kimble said, "people have a right--a citizen's right, a consumer's right - to understand the rules and the reams of information that affect their lives."

Kimble has taught legal writing at Cooley Law School for 30 years and has lectured widely on the benefits of clear writing. He is the author of Lifting the Fog of Legalese: Essays on Plain Language, editor in chief of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, and editor of the "Plain Language" column in the Michigan Bar Journal. Kimble is past president of the international organization Clarity and the drafting consultant on all federal court rules. He is a founding director of the Center for Plain Language.

Published: Thu, Jun 21, 2012

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