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Why do lawyers refer to long documents as briefs and
18-year olds as infants? Why do they use so much Latin when so few of their
clients are Ancient Romans? Is it a conspiracy?


Party of the First Part has the answers! Check out the Website for the
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Sunday, June 3, 2007

All this and orange juice too?

POFP recently learned that Florida Governor Charlie Crist launched a plain language initiative in January of this year! Why were we not informed of this earlier? The land of Disney is now poised to become a magical kingdom of crisp jargon-free sentences.

The basic idea is terrific - state agencies now have to give the reader a break by using active sentences and ordinary English.

Unfortunately, the Governor's own staff hasn't quite got the hang of it. The Executive Order announcing the Plain Language Initiative starts out with a full page of superfluous "whereas" clauses, followed by

NOW, THEREFORE, I, CHARLIE CRIST, as Governor of Florida, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Article IV, Section (1)(a) of the Florida Constitution, and all other applicable laws, do hereby promulgate the following Executive Order, to take immediate effect:

You could replace all of that, as well as the "whereas" clauses, with something like: "I, Charlie Crist, have issued the following Executive Order." In fact, you probably don't event need that, since the governor signs at the bottom. Why not just write "Executive Order" at the top and start the document with Section 1?

But I don't mean to quibble with the Governor's lawyers. They are, one hopes, simply displaying their post-modern sense of irony by writing a Plain English law in legalese. Not for nothing, plain language reforms have been starting and stopping for 700 years -- as desribed in this 2002 column.

Be patient, Florida.