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Structure and language of legal texts

Structure and language of legal texts


Pentru un jurist este important att arta vorbirii, ct i cea a scrierii. Pentru a f
ct mai corect neles, sunt anumite reguli de redactare a textelor necesare de
respectat. Prezenta lucrare are ca scop aducerea la cunotin a celor mai
improtante reguli utilizate n scrierea actelor juridice. Consider c pentru fecare
jurist care dorete sa fe credibil i convingtor este obligatoriu cunoaterea
normelor existente de scriere. Ca obiective articolul dat are informarea studenilor
referitor la limbajul i structura textelor juridice, pentru a se face inelei de cei ce
le vor citi, pentru a da dovada de profesionalism i respectiv a atrage ncrederea
celorlali. Prezenta lucrare are menirea de a ajuta pe cei care ntocmesc acte
juridice, de a reui s-i formuleze corect gindurile pe foaie. n cocluzie, chiar dac
unora din noi li s-ar prea c deja cunosc regulile necesare redactrii unui astfel de
text, este benefc de a ti acele reguli, care sunt recunoscute i cerute de toi.

Introduction
The power of clear statement is the greatest power at the bar. Daniel
Webster
Language is the lawyers tool, and so not surprisingly lawyers seem to
have developed their own language commonly called legalese. Legal
language has attracted a significant amount of criticism over time. A writer
called Will Rogers made the comment that the minute that you read
something and you cant understand it, you can be sure that it was written
by a lawyer. When writing a legal text, one shall take in count some rules. In
this article will be information about the elements that a good written
communication must contain. It will be stated the factor that makes a simple
communication becomes an effective one, for example: the importance of
considering the person for whom the message is intended, and the words
that are selected and how they are formed into sentences. For this I will
mention the techniques of plane language writing that will help to develop a
better technique of writing legal texts. Some legal writing texts start out by
explaining how legal writing is different from other writing. But it should not
be. While certain documentscomplaints, briefs, deedsmay have a
standard form, their content should be in plain English. [1, 4].

What is plain language?


Plain language is language that is clear and understandable and as
simple as the situation allows. Legal language that is plain poses special
challenges, but is not impossible. Plain language inspires confidence in both
the reader and the writer. Clear writing is evidence of clear thinking; garbled
thinking produces garbled language. If your thinking is clear, you can be
confident. [2, 5].
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Structure and language of legal texts

Should plain language be used in legal writing?


In my opinion lawyer should use a simple language, so that they were
understood by people without legal training. This opinion is sustained by
many scientists. Some lawyers are still reluctant to launch into plain English
or plain language. This relates, in particular to the doctrine of precedent.
When a word or phrase is given a judicial interpretation, lawyers then tend to
believe that that word or phrase, takes on magical and immutable qualities:
a meaning which is not subject to challenge. Lawyers become stuck on these
formulas as tried and true, and therefore regard them. [3, 46]
Thirst question that one should put to himself must be: Who will be
the reader? By knowing it, you will be able to choose the appropriate style
of writing.
So as we assume that legal writers, like all others, want their audience
to understand their messages, they should know the audience to whom they
are writing. In some respects, identifying your audience is the most
important aspect of legal writing. [3, 48] In all writings, the first rule is to
know your audience. If you are communicating to a court, know the court
be familiar with the local rules and practices, the members of the court, and
preferences of those individuals [1, 7]
Brevity, simplicity, clarity
A lawyer must respect the rule of simplicity, brevity and clarity if he
wants his writing to be effective. Every word that is not a help is a hindrance
because it distracts. A judge who realizes that a brief is wordy will skim it;
one who finds a brief terse and concise will read every word. [4,7] Strunk and
White say: "Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain noun
necessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences . . . . This requires
not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat
subjects only in outline, but that every word tell." Three good things happen
when you combat verbosity: your readers read faster, your own clarity is
enhanced, and your writing has greater impact.
Don't use compound prepositions and other wordy expressions when
the same meaning can be conveyed with one or two words.
Example:
DON'T SAY

SAY

because of the fact that

since

Structure and language of legal texts


(because)

call your attention to the fact


that

remind you

in many cases

often

in the nature of

like

[]dont think of written legal language as so vastly different from


spoken English. In fact, if you want to write clear lucid prose, youd be better
to write it as if you were speaking it and then polish it for the appropriate
level of formality. [5, 17]
Using the active voice
While writing a legal text we shall avoid passive voice, because it may
cause some confusions, while active voice makes the person/thing that
makes the actions. More over using passive voice may lead to a more
complicated and longer structure of the sentence. Also, when we use passive
voice, the usual order of words in a sentence is disturbed.
For example:
Passive voice: The regulation [receiver] was written [verb] by the
drafter [actor].
Active voice: The drafter [actor] wrote [verb] the regulation [receiver].
Readers understand sentences in the active voice more quickly and
easily because it follows how we think and process information. Many times
the passive voice forces readers to take extra mental steps as they convert
the passive into the active. [6, 19] The passive voice is appropriate when the
actor is unknown, unimportant, or obvious. This does not usually apply in
regulatory text.
Strong verbs
Strong verbs are guaranteed to liven up and tighten any sentence,
virtually causing information to spring from the page. When you start to
rewrite or edit your work, highlighting all the verbs can help. You may be
surprised by the number of weak verbs, especially forms of to be or to
have that youll find. The time you spend searching for a precise and strong
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Structure and language of legal texts

verb is time well spent. When a verb carries more meaning, you can
dispense with many of the words used to bolster weak verbs. [6,19]. Usually
weak verbs can be changed with strong ones. For example instead of shall, is
better to use must, to predict future actions- will.
before
We will provide appropriate information to shareholders concerning
after
We will inform shareholders about
Synonyms
Also we should be attentive at the words that seem to have the same
meaning. It is not advisable to use more words to describe the same
characteristic of a single thing. Variation for the sake of variation has no place in
regulation writing. Using a synonym rather than repeating the precise term you
intend just confuses the reader.

DON'T SAY: Each motor vehicle owner must register his or her car with
the Automobile Division of the Metropolitan Police Department.
SAY: Each automobile owner must register his or her automobile with
the Automobile Division of the Metropolitan Police Department.
Similarly, lawyers often use what Asprey describes as word strings a
kind of throat clearing ritual:
It is important to note that
At this point in time
We refer to previous correspondence and now advise as follows
These can sound insincere. The best advice is to delete them! Instead,
get to the point and say what you mean. [3, 59]
Present tense
Scientists recommend to use in our legal text, present tense, it makes
our work sound up-to-date, and in this way we can avoid some complicated
and awkward forms of the verbs.
The present tense is more engaging and immediate to the reader. Of
course, you will use the past tense if you are writing about an event that has
already occurred, and you will use the future tense if you are writing about
an event which is going to occur. [3,55]
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Structure and language of legal texts

Present: The courts enforce the marijuana laws despite community


opposition.
Future: The courts are going to enforce the marijuana laws despite
community opposition.
Past: The courts have enforced the marijuana laws despite community
opposition.
Write positively
Sometimes we can express our ideas both positively and negatively, it is
recommended for us to opt for the positive variant
Positive sentences are shorter and easier to understand than their
negative counterparts. [6,27]
before
Persons other than the primary benefciary may not receive these
dividends.
after
Only the primary benefciary may receive these dividends.

DON'T SAY

SAY

not honest

dishonest

did not remember

forgot

did not pay any


attention to

ignored

did not remain at the


meeting

left the
meeting

Delete hollow modifiers


In speech intensifiers create emphasis and vitality, but in writing they
deaden the impact. [4,11]
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Structure and language of legal texts

Avoid lazy adverbs and adjectives like clearly, very, plainly, obviously,
simply, completely, extremely. Instead, let your description of your idea
convey its strength by using precise words. Example: say Not supported by
any evidence instead of completely baseless. [7,3]
Keep your sentence structure parallel
Ideas should be arranged parallel in the sentences. This is important
when using a list.
A long sentence often fails without a parallel structure. Parallelism
simply means ensuring a list or series of items is presented using parallel
parts of speech, such as nouns or verbs. Note the quotation in the margin. All
writers, regardless of their degree of expertise, occasionally write unparallel
sentences. The best way to rid your document of them is to read through it
once solely to find these mistakes. Reading your document aloud can make
unparallel constructions easier to spot. [6, 34]
Honesty
Besides all the technical features, people also pay attention to how
credible our text sounds. We shall do our best in order to formulate our text
correctly. We must seem honest. As Zinsser said :"Credibility is just as fragile
for a writer as for a President. Don't inflate an incident to make it more
outlandish than it actually was. If the reader catches you in just one bogus
statement that you are trying to pass off as true, everything you write
thereafter will be suspect. It's too great a risk, and not worth taking.
Lapses in honesty occur in many ways: exaggeration, misstatement,
omission, or disregarding the standard of review. Avoid these pitfalls. As
strategies they areineffective and they can be costly to you and your client.
[4, 24]
Replace jargon and legalese with short, common words
Jargon is not welcomed in a legal text. We must use common words that
are understandable for the readers. It is better to avoid gender specific
words.
Ruthlessly eliminate jargon and legalese. Instead, use short, common
words to get your points across. In those instances where there is no plain
English alternative, explain what the term means when you first use it. If you
have been in the financial or legal industry for awhile, it may be hard to spot
jargon and legalese in your writing. Consider asking someone outside the
industry to check your work for incomprehensible words. Last, dont create
new jargon thats unique to your document in the form of acronyms or other
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Structure and language of legal texts

words. Its asking too much of your readers to memorize a new vocabulary
while they are trying to understand complicated concepts. [6, 30]
DON'T
SAY

SAY

Crewman

Crew member

Draftsman

Drafter

Foreman

Supervisor

Manhours

Hours worked

Manpower

Personnel,
workforce

Sentence structure
While writing a legal text, the rules of writing a sentence does not
change. It remains the same as in other English sentences. What I want to
emphasize is more about the content that a sentence has.
Just remember the basic rule in sentence structure, which is a sentence
should make but one statement. It should express just one idea. Two ideas
equal two sentences. [3, 54]
Punctuation
Punctuation adds meaning to our writing as well as bringing it alive, as
do our facial expressions and intonation when we are speaking.
There are also some other factors that may ruin our text: spelling errors,
mechanics, dictions, etc.
Structure
Like in every text, the design is very important. It may affect the opinion
of the readers. When information is well organized it makes easier to
understand. The way we structured our information influence on the
readers, they distinguish the different levels of the content.
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Structure and language of legal texts

Well-organized documents and cogent paragraphs are the main


featuresthat distinguish great from pedestrian legal writers. [7, 1]
A typical hierarchy in the prospectus might include:
The document title
Section headings (first level)
Subsection headings (second level)
Paragraph headings (third level)
General text (fourth level)
Designers use different typefaces in the headings to distinguish these
levels for the reader. As a rule of thumb, there should be no more than six
levels in the document, excluding the documents title. [6, 39]
Headings
1. Assert a complete point, using key terms and details.
2. Be brief (two lines or less).
4. Follow the heading with a sentence using the heading's key terms and
details.
5. Format: Bold and lower case.
6. Edit headings repeatedly in the Table of Contents [4, 38]
Paragraph headings
Paragraph represents concise information on a specific topic. It usually is
formed by a single sentence and states what the information from the text
will be about.
Paragraphs text
Limit each paragraph to a single point.
Early in each paragraph, lay out your thesis (i.e., your Conclusion).
Sometimes you might begin with a transition sentence that connects your
paragraph to the point you made in the prior paragraph. After your transition
phrase or sentence, assert your thesis. [7,1]
Ways to begin a paragraph:
State the contrary premise and then refute it.
Open with striking facts.
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Structure and language of legal texts


Open with a quote.

Ask a question and then answer it.


Text alignment
In a legal text it is better to use the most common way of editing a text.
People like to see what they expect. In this case, it is better to use left
alignment. People do not prefer full justification. You may center the title of
your text
Fonts
You should know the difference between a serifed font and a sans-serif
font:
Times New Roman and CG Times are serifed fonts because the letters
have the small ex-tensions, or serifs, at the ends of the strokes;
Arial is a sans-serif font because it has no serifs.
And you should know that if you create an en-tire documentespecially
a long onein asans-serif type, you will give it an informal or light feel. For
legal documents, a serifed font is bestother than the advice to use a
contrasting font for the headings. [5, 16]
Typefaces
For emphasis it is welcomed to use bold, italics or underlining.
Conclusion
In conclusion, if a person wants to become a successful lawyer, only
knowledge in this domain sometimes may be not enough. In order to prove
that a person is capable and professional there appears the necessity of the
ability of writing in an appropriate way. The style adopted by lawyers is an
official one and has some specifc features, thats why for a future jurist, it is
mandatory to know at least the most important rules. I hope this article will
be useful for those who want to acquire effectively and quickly skill in writing
legal texts

Bibliography
1. Judge Mark p. Painter, 30 suggestions to improve readability or how to
write for judges, not like judges
2. Cheryl Stephens, Plain Language Wizardry: Plain Language Legal
Writing
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Structure and language of legal texts

3. Will Cowley, Jennifer Nielsen, Beth Finch, Claire Valkenberg and Helen
Walsh, Legal Research and Writing
4. Daniel U. Smith, Persuasive legal writing
5. Wayne Schiess, The five legal writing principles
6. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, A Plain English Handbook
7. Professors Danielle Citron and David Super, Essentials of Effective
legal writing

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