1st Edition

The Impact of Plain Language on Legal English in the United Kingdom

By Christopher Williams Copyright 2023
    218 Pages 34 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    218 Pages 34 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume offers insights into the ways in which plain language has influenced the language of the law in the United Kingdom, critically reflecting on its historical development and future directions.

    The book opens with an overview of the theoretical frameworks underpinning plain language and a brief history of plain language initiatives as a foundation from which to outline ongoing debates on the opportunities and challenges of using plain language in the legal domain. The volume details strands where plain language has had considerable impact thus far on legal English in the UK, notably in legislative drafting, but it also explores areas in which plain language has made fewer inroads, such as the language of court judgments and that of online terms and conditions. The book looks ahead to unpack highly topical areas within the plain language debate, including the question of design and visualisation and the ramifications of digitalisation, contributing to ongoing conversations on the importance of plain language both in the UK and beyond.

    This book will be of particular interest to students and scholars interested in the intersection of language and the law as well as related disciplinary areas such as applied linguistics and English for Specific Purposes.

    Chapter One. Introduction Chapter Two. A history of plain language in the legal sphere in the United Kingdom Chapter Three. The language of legislation Chapter Four. The language of court judgments Chapter Five. The language of online terms and conditions Chapter Six. Visualising the future


    Christopher Williams retired in 2018 as Full Professor of English at the Law Department of the University of Foggia after a university career of 44 years. His research has focused mainly on legal English, particularly with reference to plain language. He is chief editor of the journal ESP Across Cultures.

    "This is the most comprehensive study of Plain Legal English that I know of, written by one of the most knowledgeable scholars in the field. Especially the encompassing historical overview and the corpus studies including legislation as well as judgments and customer terms and conditions are unique characteristics."- Jan Engberg, Aarhus University, Denmark

    "Plain language is not just about words, and this book showcases the need for visualisation in legal documents, recommending additional features for adopting plain language in the UK not just in theory but in everyday practice. It is an enlightening analysis of plain language in law in its widest sense, advancing the field greatly and thought-provokingly." - Helen Xanthaki, UCL Faculty of Laws, UK

    "A thoughtful, engaging, and extremely up-to-date study of plain language in the law, of interest to those both familiar and unfamiliar with the topic. A key feature of the volume is its use of corpora of older and more recent legal texts to gauge the effect that plain language principles have had on legal drafting over the past few decades."- Benjamin Shaer, Carleton University, Ottawa

    "A fascinating journey – spanning almost 100 years – through the language of UK law. Williams’ corpus studies are uniquely illuminating about how plain language in legal texts ebbs and flows in its progress. This book will give those new to plain legal language a sense of future opportunities in the field, and remind many of us stalwarts why we continue so passionately to fight the good fight."- Candice Burt (BA LLB, University of the Witwatersrand), Director: Simplified, President of Clarity 2010-2013

    "This is a welcome and – as far as I am aware – unique view of plain legal English...I recommend this book in particular to anyone interested in picking up the challenge of further research." - Mark Adler, English Language and Linguistics 

    "[This book] is thoroughly welcome in two senses. First, it brings together a wealth of useful and interesting information about legal English, gathered by the author over many years of teaching and research. Second, it also provides much needed empirical evidence concerning ongoing changes in various areas of legal English as a consequence of the move towards plain language and in response to other social concerns." - Ruth Breeze, University of Navarra, Spain, ASp