Center on Court Access to Justice for All
Unlike the complex, stylistic writing of most legal documents, plain language is a more precise and unambiguous style that allows readers to benefit by understanding and interpreting the document in a faster and easier manner. This topic offers resources describing the advantages of using plain language instead of the traditional legalistic style, as well as techniques and guidelines for writing in plain language.
Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may
be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.
Because citizens with law degrees hold no monopoly on our statute books based on consent of the governed, lawmakers should strive to express themselves in plain English from initial drafting through enactment.
Clarity is a worldwide group of lawyers and interested lay people. Its aim is the use of good, clear language by the legal profession. The association publishes a journal, Clarity, which is available to members.
In 2005 and 2006, a plain-language task force prepared a revision to a set of Texas jury instructions, mainly the admonitory instructions, from the state bar’s Pattern Jury Charges. It produced a set of revised instructions that were tested alongside the original instructions on two groups of mock jurors.
There is little doubt that standard instructions save judges time and effort. Yet studies suggest that jurors do not understand traditional instructions very well, especially when more difficult points of law are involved.
Past research has shown that jurors are often confused by the instructions used in the sentencing phase of a capital trial. The current research tested the effectiveness of a “debunking” approach to improving juror misunderstanding associated with capital sentencing instructions.
Jury Trial Innovations brings you up-to-date on the most recent techniques and ideas for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of jury trials. Topics include using plain language instead of legalese during trial and when drafting juror instructions.