What is POFP?

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
Legalese Hall of Shame; a glossary of legal words linked to Adam Freedman's
columns; tips on writing legal documents in plain English; and more!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Bad Writing in a Statute Book Near You

As William Zinsser wrote: "There's not much to be said about the period except that most writers don't reach it soon enough." (On Writing Well, 1990).

Legislative drafters take a long time to reach the period. Judge Mark Painter, an appellate court judge in Ohio and an expert on legal writing, recently illustrated the point in LawyersUSA. Painter quotes an Ohio statute consisting of a single 326-word sentence. The sentence can be found, appropriately enough, in Party of the First Part's Legalese Hall of Shame.

In his article, Judge Painter shows how to cut this mess down to a reader-friendly 155 word statute with sub-points and even a bit of punctuation thrown in. Well done, your honor! According to Judge Painter, it took him about an hour to accomplish his revision. Can't the legislature spare as much time?