Plain language reading

Publication details may be out of date, and are intended as an approximate guide only.


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Downloadable books

The Gains from Clarity: a research report on the effects of plain-language documents
by Gordon Mills and Mark Duckworth, published by the Centre for Plain Legal Language, Sydney, 1996.

Law Words: 30 essays on legal words & phrases
edited by Mark Duckworth and Arthur Spyrou, published by the Centre for Plain Legal Language, Sydney, 1995.

These essays, each dealing with a particular word or phrase, were researched, written, edited, and commented on by a wide range of people. While many of them were originally written by one person, they were all the result of a collective effort. Those involved in this effort over the years were: Judith Bennett, Peter Butt, Amanda Chambers, Mark Duckworth, Harry Dunstall, Malcolm Harison, Felicity Kiernan, David Kistle, Jeremy Low, Bron McKillop, Anne-Marie Maplesden, Kate Morgan, ChrisNorton, Julian O'Sullivan, and Arthur Spyrou.

Other books


Win More Cases: The Lawyer's Toolkit
published electronically by Research One Pty Ltd, 2008 ; A$149 (A$99 until 31 May 2008).

Justice Michael Kirby writes in his foreword: 'One of the most useful parts of this work is the section containing advice on techniques of argument before higher courts and on the use of plain language and good style in drafting documents and expressing written arguments.'

Modern Legal Drafting
by Peter Butt and Richard Castle, Cambridge University Press, 2nd edn, 2006; 272pp; A$34.99 pb

More scholarly than Adler, Asprey, or Wydick, but still easily readable and practical. A lot shorter than The Language of the Law.

Writing at Work: How to write clearly, effectively and professionally
by Dr Neil James, Allen & Unwin, 2007

For all business writers. Peter Butt writes: It bristles with practical ideas; your letters, reports and memos will never read the same again.

Writing in Plain English
by Robert Eagleson, Australian Government Publishing Service, 1990

An excellent guide to plain writing, written primarily for the Australian civil service but of universal application.

Plain Language for Lawyers
by Michele Asprey, Federation Press, 4th edn, 2010

Plain Language for Lawyers has been in print for more than 18 years and it has established itself in Australia and overseas as a comprehensive, entertaining and enormously useful text. It includes international references, contains practical advice, and can be read and enjoyed by anyone who is interested in plain language in the law.

Plain English and the Law
by the Law Reform Commission of Victoria, Victorian Govt Printer, Melbourne, 1987

The Elements of Drafting
by Piesse, The Law Book Co Ltd, 10th edn, 2004, edited by J.K.Aitken and Peter Butt

A Practical Guide to Drafting Pleadings
by Shelley Dunstone, Law Book Company (LBC Information Services) Sydney, 1997

by Ros Macdonald and Denise McGill, Butterworths, Sydney, 1997, 321 pp

A clear practical guide to legal drafting. Order form.


A Plain Language Handbook for Legal Writers 
by Christine Mowat, Carswell Thomson, 1999; 320 pp; Can$105; US$ 106;

Plain Language in Plain English
by Cheryl Stephens, 2010, Language English, 208 pages, Price $48.50

Plain Language in Plain English, a book with 18 international contributors, led by Cheryl Stephens and her 20 years of experience, clearly explains the fundamental elements of plain language and its benefits for everyone inside and outside the workplace. ISBN 978-0-557-53787-7

Legal Drafting
by Robert Dick QC, Carswell, 2nd edn, 1985, $40

The Language Instinct
by Steven Pinker, Penguin Books; 8.99 (in England)
A fascinating account of how our brains cope with language, with some useful nuggets for legal drafters (including, in a discussion of ambiguity, five alternative meanings for "Time flies like an arrow").

Plain Language Legal Writing (paperdback)
by Cheryl Stephens, 2009, Language English, 152 pages,
Price $28.50

A complete guide to clean, precise and understandable legal writing. Plain Language Legal Writing will help you produce documents that people are willing to read and able to understand. (ISBN 978-0-557-01450-7)

Plain Language Legal Writing (downloadable pdf)
Price $12.75,
Kindle Edition $9.95 ID: B002BWPCW6


Drafting Trusts and Will Trusts
by James Kessler QC, Sweet & Maxwell, 6th edn, 2002
Discusses drafting principles in general as well as specific drafting points relating to trusts & wills. An earlier edition won a Clarity prize in 1996.

Modern Legal Drafting
by Peter Butt and Richard Castle, Cambridge University Press, 2nd edn, 2007; 272pp; A$34.99 pb

In the second edition of this highly regarded text, the authors show how and why traditional legal language has developed the peculiar characteristics that make legal documents inaccessible to the end users. Incorporating recent research and case law, the book provides a critical examination of case law and the rules of interpretation.

The Complete Plain Words
by Sir Ernest Gowers, Penguin, 3rd edn, 1987
The only serious fault of this classic guide to clear expression was the exclusion of legal language from the principles it advocated. The 3rd edition continues this tradition, despite its acknowledgement of Clarity.

Fowler's Modern English Usage
Oxford, 3rd edn, 1996; 16

Usage and Abusage
by Eric Partridge, Penguin, 5th edn, 1957
Intended to supplement Fowler, rather than compete with it.

Drafting and Negotiating Commercial Leases 
by Murray Ross, Butterworths, 4th edn, 1994 
A thorough, clause-by-clause review of the contents of a modern commercial lease, with plain precedents developed by the author and Richard Castle. 

Clarity for Lawyers 
by Mark Adler, Law Society, 2nd edn, 2006; 200 + xxii pp; 29.95 
How lawyers can write like humans, improving their lives, profits, and service, and reducing costs. Intended to be a light read, but with plenty of before-and-after examples. 

The Oxford Guide to Plain English
by Martin Cutts OUP, 2009 (3rd edn); 74.99 
A chapter on legal language but Cutts concentrates on the language of business and administration. 

Lucid Law 
by Martin Cutts
Plain Language Commission, 29 Stoneheads, Whaley Bridge, High Peak SK23 7BB; 10 (UK), 12 (EU), 14 (elsewhere) 
Cutts' influential translation of the UK Timeshare Act into plain English in response to a challenge from parliamentary counsel, and his report on the project. Includes useful description of testing procedures. On free download from Plain Language Commission, as are similar booklets on European law and regulations.

Grammar & Style 
by Michael Dummett, Duckworth, 1993; 8.95 

The Language Instinct 
by Steven Pinker, Penguin Books; 8.99 
A fascinating account of how our brains cope with language, with some useful nuggets for legal drafters (including, in a discussion of ambiguity, five alternative meanings for "Time flies like an arrow"). 

Eats, Shoots & Leaves 
by Lynne Truss, Profile Books, 2003; 9.99 
Best-selling and witty polemic in favour of evolved punctuation, full of examples of the harm arising from errors. 

A-Z of Non-Sexist Language 
by Margaret Doyle, The Women's Press, 1995; 6.99 
Not to everyone's taste, but this sometimes wilfully incorrect reviewer found some useful help in not giving the wrong impression.

The Handbook of Non-Sexist Writing 
by Casey Miller and Kate Smith, The Women's Press, 3rd edn,1995; 6.99 


The Language of the Law 
by David Mellinkoff, Still in 1st (1963) edition but since Little Brown was taken over it is available for $36.10 from Aspen Publishers Inc
7201 McKinney Circle, Frederick, Maryland 21704 (Inland freephone 1-800-234-1660) 
A scholarly but readable history of legal language and a classic argument for plain drafting. Well indexed, and a valuable source for the pros and cons of many traditional phrases, with references to the litigation to which they have given rise. 

Legal Writing: Sense and Nonsense 
by David Mellinkoff, West Publishing, 1982 
More of a "how to" manual than The Language of the Law. 

Lifting the Fog of Legalese 
by Joseph Kimble, Carolina Academic Press, 2006
A selection of essays written over the past 15 years. In his distinctive style Professor Kimble lays waste the proponents of legalese, offering many before-and-after examples. 


Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please - The Case for Plain Language in Business, Government, and Law 
by Joseph Kimble, Carolina Academic Press. 2012 
The book we have bee waiting for. It collects the empirical evidence for the value of plain language in business, government, and law. Joe Kimble summarizes 50 studies showing that using plain language can save organizations and agencies a ton of money and that plain language serves and satisfies readers in every possible way.

The Fundamentals of Legal Drafting 
by Reed Dickerson, Little, Brown & Co, 1986 (now Aspen? see note to The Language of the Law)  

How to Write Plain English 
by Rudolph Flesch, HarperCollins, 1979 


Plain English for Lawyers 
by Richard Wydick, Carolina Academic Press, 4th edn; $15 
A step-by-step lawyer's guide to plain writing, and a best-seller in the States since it was first published in 1979. 

Plain Language Pleadings 
by Carol Ann Wilson, Prentice Hall, 1996 

Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges 
by Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner, 2008; 
Reviewed in the American Bar Association Journal 

Garner's Dictionary of Legal Usage 
by Bryan Garner, Oxford University Press, 3rd edn, 1996; $45 
A legal version of Fowler emphasising the importance of plain writing. This new edition of Garner's Dictionary of Legal Usage discusses and analyzes modern legal vocabulary and style more thoroughly than any other contemporary reference work. 

The Elements of Legal Style 
by Bryan Garner, Oxford University Press, 2nd edn, 2002; $30 
An invaluable companion to the DMLU, although there is some overlap. 

The Winning Brief 
by Bryan Garner, Oxford University Press, 2nd edn, 2004; $50 

The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing (Vols 1-8) 
Ed. Joseph Kimble, 
The entertaining journal of Scribes, an association of published legal authors. Its main goal is to promote better legal writing. For membership information, visit 

Writing Contracts in Plain English 
Carl Felsenfield and Alan Siegel, West Publishing, 1981 

On Writing Well 
William Zinsser, HarperCollins, 6th ed, 2001 
An inspiring style guide for non-fiction. 

Drafting Legal Documents 
by Barbara Child, West, 2nd edn, 1992 
An excellent teaching book. 

Clear & Effective Legal Writing 
by Veda Charrow and Myra Erhardt, Little, Brown & Co, 1986; 15 UK 
A useful guide addressed primarily to American litigators. 

The Elements of Style 
by Strunk & White, Macmillan, 4th edn; $7.95 
A pocket-sized classic guide to (general, not legal) style. 

Legal Language 
by Peter Tiersma, University of Chicago Press, 1999 
An unusual and refreshing angle on plain language from a professor of law whose first degree was in linguistics. 

The Legal Writer: 40 Rules for the Art of Legal Writing 
by Judge Mark Painter, Cincinnati Book Publishing, 4th edn, 2009; $28.95 

Legal Usage in Drafting Corporate Agreements 
by Kenneth Adams, Quorum Books, 2001; $99.95 

A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting 
by Kenneth Adams, ABA Press, 2004; $44.95