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[Clarity for Lawyers, 2nd edn]

2nd edition

Publication details

Author: Mark Adler
Publisher: The Law Society of England and Wales
Publication date: December 2006
Paperback: 234 mm x 156 mm; xxii + 200 pages
ISBN: 1 85328 985 X


It is widely available online but you may like to try The Law Society's bookshop (which can be persuaded to give discounts for bulk purchases) or Amazon. (who tend to have it more cheaply than

Publisher's summary

The traditional style of legal drafting has been widely discredited over the last 40 years, and clear, modern English is now increasingly required by law and by clients. But few lawyers are able to produce it.

Mark Adler debunks the myth that legalese is precise and explains, with many before-and-after examples, how lawyers can increase their efficiency, profits, and client approval while making their documents more reliable.

This second edition is 'a treasure house' (according to Lord Bingham's foreword) and 'entertaining. More than once I was caught laughing out loud while reading it' (according to one reviewer).

It has been thoroughly revised, updated and expanded to include new sections on ambiguity, vagueness, miscuing, and editing, as well as advice about communication via emails and websites, persuasive writing, and the rules of interpretation. The book also contains a helpful range of precedents written in plain English, including a simple will, memorandum of association, and divorce petition.

Adler's entertaining style informed by his extensive experience in practice and teaching makes this a reader-friendly, practical, and insightful book.


The purpose of this book (p. xvii)
Foreword to the 2nd edition (by Lord Bingham of Cornhill) (p. xi)
Legalese wastes time … and money (pp. 5-7)
Fashionable expressions and clichés (pp. 116-119)
Precedent 4: Explanation to clients (joint tenancy)

What the critics said

Scribes Journal of Legal Writing (Vol 11: 2007)

Although Adler's primary audience is British, all English-speaking lawyers will find much to interest them. In the opening chapters, Adler not only explains why legalese is obstructive — even destructive — but also gives ample illustrations of his points. He devotes the rest of the book to advice on how to produce effective legal writing by using plain language, paying attention to punctuation, and considering who a document's readers are, always with clear analyses of traditional legal writing and plain language equivalents. To expand on select points, Adler also presents advice from other authorities on legal language, such as David Mellinkoff, Robert Eagleson, and Joseph Kimble; the additional advice is always useful. For anyone who's still afraid to write legal documents in plain English, this book is an excellent place to start. As stated in volume 2 of the Scribes Journal, in a review of the first edition, "Adler has...create[d] a clever, inventive, and practical guide to legal writing."

Tiger Jackson and Jeff Newman, associates, Lawprose Inc.

Clarity (57: May 2007)

Clarity for Lawyers is a practical book, written for lawyers by a lawyer. As you would expect, it's well written and easy to understand. As you might not expect, it's also entertaining. (More than once I was caught laughing out loud while reading it.) I think it will appeal to practising lawyers of all backgrounds and experience levels.

Marco Stella, Special Counsel (Know How), Mallesons Stephen Jacques

The Surrey Lawyer

All lawyers need this book…. I suggest you read 'Adler on Clarity', starting at the beginning when Mr Adler writes that "this book is intended to give lawyers a better life". It does just that! The book succeeds in doing so brilliantly, and in a friendly manner. Adler has drawn from highly authoritative sources to make his point, including comments from the late Professor John Adams, acknowledging a list of distinguished personal contributors, and Lord Bingham's acute observation that "you cannot write clearly unless you know clearly what it is you want to say"….

I see Clarity for Lawyers as a publication to be recommended in publications such as Which magazine, and its organisation, the Consumers' Association, plus all the consumer groups trying to establish modern rules of writing "fit for purpose" (an unfortunate phrase) in the twenty-first century….

Probably the greatest benefit to lawyers are the working examples throughout showing how legalese can be rewritten into plain English. The examples are taken from Adler's extensive experience in practice and in teaching.... From what I have seen of this book, and it needs to be read over with care, it is highly suitable for the Bar course as well and has relevance to a much wider audience for its reader-friendly style. All interviewees should read it, too.

Phillip Taylor, barrister, book review editor, The Barrister


How many mistakes? (pp 10 and 13)paddingAdded 6.8.11
Severing joint tenancies (p 131)paddingAdded 3.5.11

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