Plain language in legal drafting

Most of the legal profession now supports plain language. But there is often disagreement about what plain language is and how to do it. This course gives you a modern and rigorous approach to plain language in legal drafting.

Plain language in legal information is important because:

  • There’s a risk of damage to your reputation when customers complain about small print and legalese
  • Laws and regulations demand plain language – from consumer rights to data privacy, the norm is shifting to favouring the language of the reader rather than the ‘letter of the law’
  • Accessibility is now key to digital media – the Web Content Accessibility Guideline 2.0 has specific principles on plain language
  • Emerging tech such as contract simplification, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning work better with simpler syntax

Plain language in legal is nothing new. But between pioneering examples such as The Citibank Promissory Note in the 1970s and the maturity of recent consumer and privacy laws, the challenges have changed.

The question asked by legal drafters has shifted from ‘Is plain language possible?’ to ‘How can we best accomplish it?’.

Simplified training gives you the skills you need for simplifying all kinds of legal content, including:

  • agreements
  • contracts
  • policies and statements
  • terms of use
  • terms and conditions
  • notices
  • opinions
  • correspondence

Practical outcomes for legal or compliance professionals

Solid foundation in the reasons and requirements for plain language

You’ll learn:

  • the legal definition of plain language that applies in your jurisdiction
  • the common objections to plain language and how to counter them
  • examples of good (and bad) rewrites
  • how to apply the principles of literacy, readability and legal literacy 
  • how to evaluate plain language across an organisation 
  • when you need to conduct audits and user tests

Planning and structuring a legal document

In this part, you’ll get the tools and techniques to:

  • know how to balance reader wants and needs in an agreement
  • structure a contract or policy according to reader needs
  • compose the nexus of the agreement
  • write informative headings and use them to create a summary

Writing legal content (plain legal drafting)

You’ll get a wealth of practice and examples to help you to:

  • get rid of legalese (unnecessarily complex words)
  • replace, define or explain legalisms or ‘terms of art’
  • write lean and simple sentences
  • create your own plain-language checklist

Lively live online sessions

Our courses are interactive, and rely on your examples, input and discussion. This is adult-to-adult learning where:

  • we  train a principle or technique
  • we show you an example of how it’s put into practice (preferably in a real  example from your organisation)
  • you to do a short exercise.

You’ll also get a longer assignment to do after the course. Each course is 12 hours. We usually split the course over three four-hour seminars.

Some feedback from lawyers 

‘The practical exercises ensured we understood the theory. The group was small enough to ensure individual attention. It was great that it was tailor-made to legal drafting and the contracts we write.’

‘The course made me realise how lawyers and ‘legal talk’ have alienated non-lawyers; how we lawyers have created chaos – but more work for litigators.’

‘The Simplified course made me aware of the principles involved in plain language – that it is not dumbing down the language.’

‘I received an immediate tool to improve our writing skills.’

‘The trainers are knowledgeable about legal language and how to simplify it.’

‘I received valuable insight into my own writing – it’s full of bad things (passive voice, flowery stuff, etc). I now feel empowered to improve it.’


Man sitting at desk with the devil saying, I can't sign this contract - it's not in plain language. Sign about the devil's head reads 'Legal department'.
Terms and conditions in plain English