The University of Chicago Press,
Exercises from LEGAL WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH, Bryan A. Garner

§ 12. Learn to detest simplifiable jargon.



Translate the following passages into plain English:

  • A prehearing conference was held on July 15, 2000, and the result of said conference was that Rawson was given an extension of time until August 6 to respond to Vicker's motion. Rawson subsequently failed to file any response thereto.
  • In the event that any employee is requested to testify in any judicial or administrative proceeding, said party will give the company prompt notice of such request in order that the company may seek an appropriate protective order.
  • The court asks whether the plaintiff is guilty of unreasonable delay in asserting its rights. Such determination is committed to the trial court's sound discretion. The emphasis is on the reasonableness of the delay, not the length of such delay.
  • Subsequent to the Bank's dishonor and return of the forged check, the United States served the aforementioned subpoena upon the Bank and directed the Bank to deliver to his office forthwith, upon receipt, at any time and from time to time, any and all bank checks, cashier's checks, and similar items stolen in the robbery that transpired on July 2, 2000.


Translate the following passages into plain English:

  • All modifications, interlineations, additions, supplements, and/or changes to this Contractual Amendment are subject to and conditioned upon a fully executed, signed, and dated acceptance, approval, and confirmation at Pantheon's corporate headquarters.
  • An interpreter is needed if, after examining a witness, the court arrives at the conclusion that the witness is without the ability to understand and speak English at a sufficient level of proficiency to comprehend the proceedings in such a way as to assist counsel in the conduct of the case.
  • This letter shall confirm our understanding and agreement that if your loan application on the above-described property is approved, you shall occupy the same as your primary residence within thirty (30) days of the closing date. You are aware that if you shall fail to do so, such failure shall constitute a default under the Note and Security Instrument executed in connection with your loan, and upon occurrence of such default the full and entire amount of the principal and interest payable pursuant to said Note shall become immediately due and payable at the option of the holder thereof.
  • Pursuant to the provisions of §§ 3670, 3671, and 3672 of the Internal Revenue Code of the United States, notice is hereby given that there have been assessed under the Internal Revenue Code of the United States, against the following-named taxpayer, taxes (including interest and penalties) which after demand for payment thereof remain unpaid, and that by virtue of the above-mentioned statutes the amount (or amounts) of said taxes, together with penalties, interest, and costs that may accrue in addition thereto, is (or are) a lien (or liens) in favor of the United States upon all property and rights to property belonging to said taxpayer.


Find a published piece of legal writing that is thick with legalese. Prepare a short memo--no more than three pages--in which you (1) show at least two paragraphs from the original, (2) show how you would edit the passage, and (3) explain briefly why you made your edits. If possible, cite authority (such as a usage guide--see § 48) in support of your edits.


In the literature on legal language and legal writing, find three quotable paragraphs (each from a different writer) discussing legalese. Assemble the quotations and citations. If you belong to a writing group or class, bring a copy of your quotations for each colleague.

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© 2001, Bryan A. Garner

These exercises appear in Bryan A. Garner's Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text with Exercises, published by The University of Chicago Press and available at bookstores and on the Web at