Looking for something? Search this site and archives.

Lawyers and the English Language

by Alexander Miller
(Port Alberni)

Years ago I drafted home-made wills for myself and my wife in ordinary, everyday English - a language about which I care even when I'm not strictly proficient with it. I took them to a BC notary to have them checked for legal acceptability. To my horror what was returned to me - for a very significant fee - was a pair of rewritten documents containing needlessly and absurdly repetitive clauses as well as words(?) like "heretobefore"; and filled with arcane phrases and double - triple? - redundancies like "Nominate, constitute and appoint," "Give, devise and bequeath" and so on. One would have thought (I'm the "
one") that lawyers, notaries and the like, being intelligent & well educated, would have the smarts to see through this nonsense, rebel against and reject it to avoid puking. Apparently not.

What is the matter with these people - and who do they think they/we are? It's not just the legal professions of course. Nearly all government documents suffer from an inability to state clearly what they mean to convey. The same goes for much of the correspondence I receive from corporate groups. It often seems designed simply to "Cover their backsides" and satisfy the accounting & legal departments while if possible confusing the customer. Even social and charitable organisations fall for the idea that they should use the same sort of bafflegab, presumably thinking it makes them sound somehow more "legitimate."

What can be done about these insults to the intelligence of the general public?

Feeling the need to update our wills, or just clarify them, I've written the professional bodies for the lawyers and notaries of BC, asking for the names of any members who will write documents in Plain Language. Next I think I'll start to harass our MLAs and MPs on the subject. I think there's a facility for online petitions that could help exert some pressure. I've never been an activist before but "The humour is on me now." Are there folks on here that will join me? Write somebody! Grow the movement for plain (but complete) communication!!

Rick Mercer are you with us?

I claim NO copyright for this article. By all means quote me but please don't misquote or distort anything I've written. You can write me as speug@shaw.ca. It's a disposable address which will be deleted if abused.

By the way, I've reviewed all of I've written here and removed quite a number of rhetorical redundancies; but probably not all .... :)

Peace, (without apathy)
Alexander Miller
Port Alberni

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Writer Submission.


Return to the Dialogue Home Page

What is Dialogue Magazine?

The Summer 2018 print issue of Dialogue Magazine has been mailed to subscribers - You can read the digital edition online.

To subscribe and to receive the Summer issue in print, give us a call: 250-758-9877 on Vancouver Island, BC Canada. Or, on this website, you can:
Subscribe or order a Gift Subscription

NEXT ISSUE:
AUTUMN - featuring the letter "U" ...
Any ideas?
The deadline for your submissions is Sep. 1
Please email letters, articles, artwork, poetry, etc., for the Autumn Issue to: dialogue@dialogue.ca
- or use the Submission Page.

* * *
Please send comments, inquiries or letters / essays / poetry / art 
to dialogue@dialogue.ca

MAIL: 6227 Groveland Dr., Nanaimo, BC V9V 1B1 CANADA. Or use the Submission Page
* * *

Links to earlier issues can be accessed here.

You can order a copy of the printed magazine!

* * *

QUOTES

"The civilized have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their "vital interests" are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death: these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the 'sanctity' of human life, or the 'conscience' of the civilized world." - James Baldwin, Source: page 489 of COLLECTED ESSAYS (1998), from chapter one of "The Devil Finds Work" (orig. pub. 1976)

"Since world war two we've managed to create history's first truly global empire. This has been done by the corporatocracy, which are a few men and women who run our major corporations and in doing so also run the U.S. government and many other governments around the world." - John Perkins, 2005, author of the book titled 'Confessions of and Economic Hit Man' 

In the struggle of Good against Evil, it's always the people who get killed. - Eduardo Galeano  

"It's not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely." - Leo Buscaglia, author and university professor (1924-1998) 

The above quotes are from ICH on Dec. 18-19, 2015: InformationClearingHouse

* * *

Add comments or new items in Your Submissions