Plain English and modern legal drafting: Part 6

If you want to draft a document in standard English, what can you do?

If you are a transactional lawyer, and you now believe you have room to improve the language of the forms you use, here are my recommendations:

1. Get Adams’s Manual of Style for Contract Drafting.
Although it might be a while before you have the time to read Adams’s book straight through, you can immediately begin using it as a reference. You’ll learn a lot that way, plus it will help settle language disputes.

You’ll also found the following reference valuable:

It will help you master the subtleties of legal language.

2. Turn off autopilot.
Your standard forms can sometimes foster haste and laziness. Never rely too heavily on the form or assume all you need to do is change the names and change the dates. Get to know every provision in your document. Proofread carefully. Triple-check.

3. Stay current.
You and others at your office have used this form document as a starting place for years, so what could be wrong? Plenty. Laws change, and so do contracting practices. Know what you need and what you don’t need in the document. No matter the source of the form, there’s no substitute for learning, on your own, what the law requires for the transaction you’re documenting.

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