Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1843415
 


 



The Public Speaks: An Empirical Study of Legal Communication


Christopher R. Trudeau


Thomas M. Cooley Law School

May 20, 2012

14 Scribes J. Leg. Writing 121 (2011-2012)

Abstract:     
Most attorneys agree that writers need to tailor their writing to a particular audience. This just makes sense. So it is not a stretch to argue that to convey a clear message to a client, attorneys should use plain language. But there is little empirical data supporting the public’s preference for plain language. Rather, most sources largely rely on anecdotal evidence to prove this point.

Therefore, in 2011, I conducted a study to help measure many of the following unanswered questions: To what degree does the public prefer plain language over traditional legal language? How do people react when they see complicated legal language that they do not understand? How often will people look up these complicated terms? Have they ever been so frustrated by such language that they quit reading a document?

This article describes this study, analyzes the 376 responses to the survey, and explains the results in numerous, detailed ways. What you'll find is that this study provides much needed support for a simple principle – that the public prefers clear, understandable communication.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 32

Keywords: plain language, plain English, communication, client, client communication, active voice, complex words, complicated words, Latin, legalese, written communication, oral communication, empirical, client preferences, public preferences, clarity

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Date posted: May 23, 2011 ; Last revised: September 14, 2012

Suggested Citation

Trudeau, Christopher R., The Public Speaks: An Empirical Study of Legal Communication (May 20, 2012). 14 Scribes J. Leg. Writing 121 (2011-2012). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1843415 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1843415

Contact Information

Christopher R. Trudeau (Contact Author)
Thomas M. Cooley Law School ( email )
300 S. Capitol Avenue
P.O. Box 13038
Lansing, MI 48901
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.cooley.edu/faculty/trudeau.html
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