Judges on Effective Writing: The Importance of Plain Language, by Bryan Garner, Michigan Bar Journal Plain Language Committee
(‘‘Plain Language’’ is a regular feature of the Michigan Bar Journal, edited by Joseph Kimble for the Plain English Subcommittee of the Publications and Website Advisory Committee. We seek to improve the clarity of legal writing and the public opinion of lawyers by eliminating legalese. Want to contribute a plain-English article? Contact Prof. Kimble at Thomas Cooley Law School, P.O. Box 13038, Lansing, MI 48901. For information about the Plain English Committee, see our website—http://www.michbar.org/generalinfo/plainenglish/home.cfm.)
Lawyers are notoriously poor at gauging what judges prefer in legal writing. Too many of us believe, for example, that judges expect us to use legalese. In 1991, when the Texas Plain-Language Committee surveyed all the state district and appellate judges in Texas, we found that more than 80 percent prefer plain language (Plaintiff complains of Defendant and says) over legalese (Now comes the Plaintiff, by and through his attorneys of record, Darrow and Holmes, and for his Original Petition in this cause would respectfully show unto the Court the following). Indeed, several judges responded to the survey with a plea that we stamp out legalese once and for all. . . .