Lawyers challenged to celebrate plain English

Published: Fri 6 Sep 2013 01:55 PM
Lawyers challenged to celebrate plain English
Lawyers are challenged to show their commitment to plain English.
This country has led the world in bringing the law closer to the ordinary person – by a comprehensive rewrite of tax laws and by adopting plain language guidelines for drafting of legislation, says Gregory Fortuin, WriteMark Plain English Awards Trust Chair.
“However I wonder if the practitioners in New Zealand have grasped the opportunity that plain English presents,” says Mr Fortuin. He says the WriteMark New Zealand Plain English Awards are an opportunity for lawyers to celebrate their change to clear, plain English documents.
“Plain English techniques benefit readers, writers and the firm’s bottom line. Surely improving client relationships is a good reason to embrace a clear style. That’s not to mention improved communication with the courts, government and other professionals,” says Mr Fortuin.
“I challenge lawyers to show us the efforts they’ve made to communicate in a way all New Zealanders can understand.” Mr Fortuin suggests entering the Turnaround category to demonstrate a ‘before and after’ version of a document.
In 2012 UDC Finance Limited won the Best Plain English Investor Document. The category judges said the secured investments prospectus showed how ‘everybody wins with clear investor documentation, supported by clear layout and exceptionally good, instructive graphics. The document complies well with legal requirements.’
Mr Fortuin says the UDC Finance Limited win shows that documents such as prospectus and legal papers can be written in a way people can read, understand and take action. The inaugural Plain English Champion: Best Organisation Award was won in 2006 by law firm A J Park. “They are still very committed to plain English and stand by their promise to give consistently clear, jargon-free advice,” says Mr Fortuin.
Entry to the Writemark Plain English Awards close on 20 September. The Awards give public and private sector organisations the opportunity to celebrate their important messages by using clear, effective communications. They also give the public an opportunity to praise a clear, concise document or website or dob in a bad one.
For more information and to enter online visit

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