This blog shares some of our thoughts about plain language, and the latest discussions about plain English and clear design in New Zealand, and around the world.

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19 June 2010

Plain English for doctors, lawyers, and college professors

I have to confess that a book title like *How to write plain English: a book for lawyers and consumers by Rudolph Flesch, gets me excited. Luckily I spend much of my working life surrounded by people who become equally sparkly-eyed at such a find.

The book didn’t disappoint. It’s filled with wonderful examples of legal texts, including many contracts and regulations that were successfully re-written in plain English. It even has a section on how to write plain math.

But the very best bit was in the Foreword. ‘Life treats people unequally. Some barely make it through senior high, or perhaps a few years at university. Others go to the finest schools of graduate learning and become doctors, lawyers, or college professors. But even for this latter group, there is hope. They can learn to write in plain English.’

Actually, as much as we chuckled, we know that last sentence is true — some of the strongest advocates for plain English among our clients are lawyers! Times are changing.

And yes. The author of the book, Rudolph Flesch, is the very same person who pioneered the concept of document readability and invented the Flesch Readability Formula. The book may have been written in 1979 but it’s as relevant today as it was then.

*Flesch, R. How to write plain English: a book for lawyers and consumers. New York: Harper and Row, 1979.

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