Lay Law Tips #2: Is it easy to read? Get help, or get it again.

Did you know that it is a legal requirement for legal documents to be easy to understand?

This includes and is especially applied to the laws themselves; the statutes which come out of Westminster, Washington D.C, Holyrood, Canberra, wherever. Early critics of legislative drafting include King Edward VI who declared in the 16th century that

he wished “that the superfluous and tedious statutes were brought into one sum together, and made more plain and short, to the intent that men might better understand them”.

In 1972, US President Richard Nixon decreed that the “Federal Register be written in layman’s terms”and in 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed Executive Order 12044, which said that federal officials must see that each regulation is “written in plain English and understandable to those who must comply with it”. President Ronald Reagan rescinded these orders, but many political agencies continued to follow them. By 1991, eight states of the USA had also passed legislation related to plain language.

In the UK this is legislated for contracts too under The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations (1999) which requires that any contract must be in “plain, intelligible language”.
The catch is: they must be as simple as possible. Sometimes, for law, it’s not that simple. That’s the reason why in some circumstances, such as signing for a large loan or contract, the seller must explain everything clearly, or you might be required to have a professional or witness present.
The law goes to great lengths to make sure it is applied to you only as you will understand it.
Finally, did you know that in the UK contract terms which are ambiguous must be applied in the “most favourable interpretation” rule which stipulates that where there is doubt as to what a term means, the meaning most favourable to the consumer will apply.
So, check out your local office for fair trading and consumer rights, and make sure you get it. 

USA – Plain Language.gov, the US government website
UK – The Plain Language Requirement on the Office of Fair Trading
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