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Jargon, legalese, abbreviations, and acronyms create a foreign language experience for your reader. The reader struggles to translate your meaning into ordinary vocabulary. And you risk making the reader feel dumb.

What will the client understand if you say

  • “your contract fails for lack of consideration”
  • “the defendant caused a de facto breach ”
  • “a debtor has a prima facie case and a right to cure the default”

And who will understand this:

“The witness attested that she heard the tenant shout, “I am sorry about the brick”. Whereas the aforementioned statement qualifies as res gestae we can surmise that the plaintiff’s cause of action against the defendant for head injuries is established by virtue of res ipsa loquitur.”

Will the judge need a glossary to keep track of all the acronyms in your document?

Did you create any unique abbreviations or coin any new words that will be hard for the readers to remember at the same time as they are trying to grasp your ideas?

We found court papers with so many different acronyms that it was impossible to keep track of who was who and what was what. We suspect that the writers used acronyms in an attempt to comply with the court’s strict word count. To increase clarity we revised each acronym by capturing its essence with a descriptive word. Here are 3 acronyms we revised.

Original Acronym Revised
Southside Cultural Community Cooperative SCCC Cooperative
The Merrick School of Dance TMSOD School
Merrick Minimum Maintenance Standards for Public Buildings Bylaw MMSPBL Maintenance Bylaw

You know the potential for jargon in your subject matter better than anyone else. But you might be so close to the work that you can’t recognize the jargon and legalese.

Take a fresh piece of paper or open a new electronic document and write down or type all the abbreviations, acronyms, Latin phrases, and legal concepts that come to mind when you think about your subject.

Now imagine you are a foreign visitor and need to translate your list into everyday English.

Scan your document, keeping your audience in mind:

  • Remove the jargon and legalese
  • Explain unfamiliar legal concepts in plain English
  • Substitute short descriptive words for acronyms