From the foreword

Lord Neuberger, then President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom:

… In all these circumstances, a book on clear drafting for lawyers is to be welcomed, and a good book on the topic is to be greatly welcomed. Mark Adler and Daphne Parry have written a good book on the topic, and it is a pleasure to write this foreword to the third edition. The book is engagingly written and well structured. Many parts of the book can be read through almost as much for pleasure as for instruction, as they can be regarded as a collection of anecdotes or cautionary tales. That is because the authors very sensibly realise that by far the best way to make their point is by way of examples. Finally, I would venture to suggest that anyone who is engaged in communication, whether in writing or by word of mouth, could profit from reading this book.

Unpublished criticism, with discussion (each set opening as a pdf file)

Cristina Vignolo Córica (retired university lecturer in language, phonetics & phonology, and analysis of legal discourse, Argentina), suggesting an improvement to the "warning" revision on page 85 pad added 10.3.19
Adrian Jack (English barrister and former Justice of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar), criticising the lease precedent on pages 241 - 248 pad added 18.7.18

How to comment

At the moment we don't have the software to allow you to post comments directly onto this site. We'll consider upgrading if the demand justifies it.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to join our discussions, or add a new criticism, please email your comment to us care of We’ll post every adverse comment unless it is irrelevant or offensive, either adding that we agree with you or explaining why we don't. Please say:
whether you want us to explain our disagreement to you first, in case you want to amend or withdraw your comment before it is posted; and

how you want your comment to be signed (for example, "John Smith, English solicitor" or anonymously). Either way, please give your home country and either your occupation ("non-lawyer" will do if you prefer) or any relevant qualification.
Alternatively, if you want to comment to us alone, without it appearing on the website, please say so.

But we reserve the right to post comments without identifying their source if we think our replies might be of interest to other readers.


We've quoted all the reviews that we've seen. If you know of any others we'd appreciate your sending copies or details.

Duncan Berry (The Loophole) added 15.10.18
Sue Bramall (Amazon) added 21.3.18
Peter Butt (Australian Law Journal) added 11.7.18 and slightly expanded 18.8.19
Mark Cooney (Scribes Journal of Legal Writing) added 16.4.19
Martin Cutts (Plain Language Commission blog) added 2.6.18
"Joe K" (Amazon) added 21.3.18
Veena Kanda (Amazon) added 4.3.20
Paul Magrath (Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales website) added 15.8.19
Michael McParland QC (Counsel Magazine) added 6.11.18
T.N.G. Norman (Amazon)
Rachel O'Connor (The Law Teacher) added 12.10.19
David Pickup (The Law Society's Gazette)
Simon Rainey QC and Sam Dunkley, solicitor, (Journal of World Energy Law & Business) added 5.6.18
Elizabeth and Phillip Taylor (Amazon, YouTube) new version added 1.4.18
Peter Todd (Managing for Success) added 1.4.18

Dr Duncan Berry, consultant parliamentary counsel, in The Loophole (Sep 2018)
The book … provides an extremely comprehensive coverage of the topic. It is engagingly written and well structured. I found [it] not only instructive but also entertaining, with its many pertinent examples, amusing anecdotes and cautionary tales. As the authors very sensibly realise, by far the best way to argue their case is through the use of examples. …

The authors convincingly demonstrate how lawyers can write more effectively. In so doing, they canvas a large range of topics relevant to producing this outcome. …

I commend this book to every lawyer who engages in any form of legal writing, whether it be writing letters to clients, drafting leases or other kinds of contracts, writing judgements or drafting legislation. Bearing in mind that relatively few university law faculties and professional law institutions conduct even optional courses on effective legal writing (let alone compulsory ones), I urge all solicitors and other lawyers engaged in legal writing not only to have this book in their libraries but also to read the book and to implement the excellent advice that it contains.

I would further venture to suggest that not just lawyers but anyone who is engaged in written communication could benefit from reading this excellent book and from practicing what it preaches.

Sue Bramall of Berners Marketing, marketing consultant to law firms, on Amazon
This should be on the syllabus of every law school in the country - it really is not enough to know the law if you cannot communicate its implications to your clients in a way that they understand and are comfortable with. Daphne Perry and Mark Adler have covered all the usual bad habits that occur in legal drafting in a pithy and no-nonsense way. Points are made and bad practice demonstrated with often amusing and enlightening examples from recent cases. I would not expect to say this of a non-fiction book but I found it was a very enjoyable read.

And in PM Magazine, published by Practice Management International

[T]his is a book which outlines the very best practices in good writing. These good practices could apply in any professional sphere, but are wonderfully specific to writing about the law and illustrated with examples which immediately drive the point home.

…[It begins] with 30 pages on what is wrong with traditional legal writing. The list of 16 indisputable reasons include that it wastes time and money, is imprecise and can cause unnecessary mistakes, it alienates clients, their advisers and judges and as I have often found is "as dull as lead (and almost as indigestible)".

The next section discusses what makes good writing, and how good writing helps to convey information about the law accurately, precisely, efficiently and persuasively. …

I particularly enjoyed the authors' often pithy tone: "Let us call a spade a spade, though as eloquently as possible". …

This book should be obligatory reading for every law student, and every lawyer who would like to improve their communication skills, and every communications professional who works with lawyers.

Peter Butt, emeritus professor of law, University of Sydney, in the Australian Law Journal (joint review with Seeing Through Legalese by Joseph Kimble)
… All three authors clearly share a passion for clear, direct, legal writing. This comes through in their writing, for they practise what they preach. Each book offers detailed practical advice on how to write with clarity, brevity and legal precision. … I expect that they will appeal to similar readerships: law students, academics, practising lawyers and legislative drafters.

… Adler/Perry start by examining some of the problems with traditional legal writing. This subject matter will be familiar to many readers of books about plain legal language. Topics include: judicial criticisms of traditional legal language; the inefficiencies of contorted language; and the ways in which convoluted legal language can mask not merely typographical mistakes but errors of substance. Yet, though the ground is well-trodden, the treatment is fresh, persuasive and engaging. Adler/Perry then move to examine the true nature of plain language, and why some lawyers still oppose it.

Next comes what many will regard as the core of the book: the techniques for writing and drafting in plain language. Interestingly (and for me, properly), the authors start with matters of structure and organisation – formatting, fonts, formulas, and the like. In this, their work reflects a change in the focus of plain language advocacy. In the early days of the revived plain language movement, writers tended to focus almost entirely on finer points of language – such as word choice (simpler, not complex), sentence length (shorter, not longer), active vs passive (prefer active) and verbs vs nouns (prefer verbs). But the “revived” plain language movement recognises that “larger” matters of structure, organisation and layout are crucial to effective communication. Adler/Perry give these matters the priority they deserve.

Then follow chapters on punctuation (“use it”, they recommend), redundancy (“avoid it”, they urge), definitions (“be more thoughtful about them”), word choice (“lighten up”), and sentence length (“shorter is better”). There are also useful chapters on how to make writing more persuasive, and on computer aids to better writing (including readability-testing). The book then moves to important chapters about avoiding vagueness and ambiguity, and ends with fascinating overviews of the principal rules of legal interpretation – on the premise that a good legal writer should know not only how to write but also how judges are likely to interpret what they write.

Throughout, Adler/Perry include clear illustrations of the various matters they discuss. As Lord Neuberger notes in his Foreword to the book, the authors “very sensibly realise that by far the best way to make their point is by examples” (p xi). Valuable appendices give before-and-after examples of legal drafting. Some of these examples the authors draw from recent UK decisions; others they draw from correspondence, legal documents and statutes. All illuminate the discussion in the text. …

These two books are invaluable additions to the “legal writing” shelves of all lawyers. The tips and techniques they explore are invaluable, and will help all lawyers write with brevity, precision and panache. And in an era when many law books are dense in tone, arcane in subject matter, and drenched in footnotes, these books are an enjoyable read. Perhaps you will find them – as I did – not merely enlightening, but also instructive, engaging and refreshing.

Professor Mark Cooney, editor-in-chief, Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, in that journal
[T]his … is so much more than a plain-language manual. The book is holistic and comprehensive. It[’s] … about clear thinking, too.

Perhaps the most welcome surprise for this reader is the authors’ deep dive into “How misunderstandings arise,” a new section with chapters devoted to vagueness, ambiguity, miscuing, the loss of nontextual clues, and more. …

The book closes with appendixes containing practical exercises (with analysis) and instructive redrafts. Some authors shy away from publishing their own redrafts for public and critical consumption. Adler and Perry do not.

Given the book’s breadth and quality, I could cherry-pick highlights from almost any page or chapter. …

If I had my way, every law student and lawyer in the English-speaking world would read the “Be human” chapter, a welcome carryover from the second edition. If you’re inclined toward skepticism, let me assure you that the chapter does not devolve into feel-good platitudes or abstractions. On the contrary, it’s just like the other chapters: chock-full of real-world examples — both good and bad — followed by concrete analysis and advice. …

Although Clarity for Lawyers will benefit lawyers in every practice area, some courtroom practitioners might balk at the book’s heavy attention to transactional drafting and informal correspondence. … Yet … many lawyers, I suspect, will find the attention to correspondence refreshing. The advice on persuasion is deceptively comprehensive and emphasizes connecting with readers, explaining in detail the styles and tactics that do and do not facilitate that connection. This should draw keen interest from litigators looking to win fans in the courthouse. …

[T]he authors practice what they preach, so the book is a joy to read. Readers will learn much by occasionally disregarding the substance and dissecting the writing itself. The authors show taste, economy, and creativity. Their writing is vivid and reflects the confidence, insight, and purpose born of hard-won expertise. And I dare add that the book offers glimpses of charm and brims with, yes, humanity.

Martin Cutts, director of the Plain Language Commission, on the PLC blog
A book is dull if it states the obvious in a boring way. This book states the obvious – that clarity in legal writing is a good thing and that it can be achieved by using some reasonably straightforward tactics – but it remains fresh, funny and engaging throughout. At 270 pages it’s a lot to read at one sitting, but studying a chapter a day on the train to work will provide a month of what lawyers are wont to call ‘quiet enjoyment’. There ought to be a health warning, though. Among lawyers rooted in the old ways of self-important verbosity and complacent obscurity, the book could cause life-changing medical conditions. It will be interesting to see how many copies the Law Society can sell to lawyers in India, for example, where Raj-day loquacity and flatulent orotundity are still the crooked backbone of much legal writing and speech. …

I like that the book takes its own advice. It’s written in clear, unstuffy English and backs up its assertions with evidence. …

The book is essential reading for UK-based lawyers (the primary audience) but its principles are relevant in all English-speaking jurisdictions.

"Joe K" on Amazon
Now in its third edition, this excellent book only gets better. It covers all aspects of clear legal writing: the deficiencies of traditional style, the considerable advantages of plain language, the misconceptions about it, the evidence for its effectiveness, the means to achieving it (the book’s largest section), and much more. The book is chock-full of before-and-after examples that are bound to sharpen the judgment and skill of legal drafters. Just get it. Highly recommended.

Veena Kanda, Learning and Development Manager, Wiggin, in an email, quoted with permission
This book should be compulsory reading for anyone entering the legal profession!

Paul Magrath, barrister, on The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting website
In her speech at last month’s Criminal Law Review conference, Lady Justice Rafferty warned lawyers against needless verbosity and lack of clarity in their writing and speech. …

Verbosity and archaism are not the only sins of which the legal writer may be guilty. That’s why the latest edition of Clarity for Lawyers … is so useful. This guide to effective legal language aims to help lawyers to write more clearly, “for their own benefit and for that of anyone affected by their work”, and to help “make the law more transparent, so that its benefits and obligations are not lost in a tangle of verbiage”.

The book sets out what the authors think is wrong with legal writing, and then advises readers on various ways in which it can be put right. There are plenty of examples, both of bad practice – some of them skin-crawlingly awful – and of good. Each chapter deals with a different aspect of good writing (format, punctuation, consistency etc) or bad (vagueness, misleading expectations etc). It is clearly laid out and there are notes at the end of each chapter.

In short, it’s an example of the very practice it aims to perfect. My only quibble is that it does go into each aspect in careful detail and, although the prose is clear, the amount of it together with the examples makes the book rather more of a substantial textbook than a handy pocket guide. ….

The authors’ main target is what is generally called “legalese” – dense, convoluted writing that says more about the writer’s professional self-regard than about the subject matter of the communication. It wastes time and money, it alienates the reader, it is imprecise, and it causes mistakes to occur. For all these reasons it fails to communicate effectively. “The main purpose of this book is to persuade lawyers to abandon the bizarre tradition of treating incomprehensibility as a virtue”. ….

No solicitors’ firm or chambers or law school should be without it.

Michael McParland QC, commercial silk, in Counsel Magazine
This a very enjoyable, practical and persuasive guide for any lawyer who wants to improve their use of language. Indeed, as Lord Neuberger writes in his foreword, ‘anyone who is engaged in communication, whether in writing or by word of mouth, could profit from reading this book’. …

As a Law Society publication, it naturally leans more towards the work of solicitors but barristers will also benefit from the guidance provided.

The US federal judge, Elijah Barrett Prettyman, famously said that ‘the lawyer’s greatest weapon is clarity, and its whetstone is succinctness’…. This book will help any lawyer who wants to achieve both.

Rachel O'Connor, law lecturer, University of Leeds, in The Law Teacher
Clarity for Lawyers puts “legalese” under the microscope, challenging the use of complex language in legal drafting. From my experience as a tax solicitor and academic, I recognise the difficulty in plain language drafting, particularly in technical areas so a text like this which serves as a handy reference point for client focused drafting is very welcome. …

A highlight of the book is the examples given throughout, many of which will bring a knowing smile to the faces of many lawyers as they reflect on drafting they have done and seen during their careers. Co-authoring is also used well with different examples given by each author, adding to the richness of discussion and providing counter-views. …

Occasionally, the tone of the book suggests drafting legal documents in plain language is an easy task but there are a multitude of reasons why this may not be so. Having said that, the book is focused mostly on giving practical tips and, to that extent, provides a useful basis for professional training and as a handbook for lawyers and law students. …

Whilst there are parts of the book which may be too detailed for practising lawyers, overall, it is a useful text for students and practitioners by encouraging them to consider and question the impact of their writing style. The book provides concrete examples to help lawyers think about small changes they can make in daily practice.

The book is accessibly written and will have many practitioners nodding as they recognise their own drafting habits.

T.P.G. Norman, solicitor, on Amazon
Packed full of useful, career-enhancing pearls of wisdom. And it's fun to read too. I keep my copy by my bedside.

David Pickup, solicitor, in The Law Society's Gazette
… There is much for all to learn in this book. …

Simon Rainey QC and Sam Dunkley, solicitor, in Journal of World Energy Law & Business
[Adler & Perry's] text is commendably succinct and gives a comprehensive overview of effective drafting, and can be absorbed relatively quickly. They break down the topic, starting with a bracing analysis of ‘What is wrong with traditional legal writing?’, moving on to consider what makes good writing good (in any sphere: underscoring that a letter, an opinion, terms and conditions all represent the same task) and identifying the need to identify one’s aims before one moves to the keyboard and to think first, rather than to search out the old contract or the precedent book. …

The book closes with an interesting analysis of how misunderstandings arise, giving the wider context as to why things may be ambiguous, eg based on a reader’s expectations, which may in turn be created by the language, and the loss in a written text of non-textual clues which in spoken English tend (but not always) to obviate ambiguity. Derek Bentley’s ‘let him have it Chris’, cited by them, remains a striking example. Throughout, the text is supported by reference to linguistic and other academic specialists.

The book is light on English law legal principles of interpretation (whether one sees them as Lord Hoffmann’s ‘old baggage’ or as more useful, in the light of the return of the Supreme Court in recent cases such as Arnold v Britton to focussing on the language). This is not a disadvantage as that is not the purpose of the book, and the field is well covered elsewhere …. The book sets out, rather, to teach us to look at how and why we write, usually in legalese, as we do and to show us ways of avoiding it. It succeeds completely in this aim.

Adler and Perry are to be congratulated on producing such an accessible, intelligent and informative work, in less than 250 pages of text. It is also a very good and entertaining read ….

Elizabeth Robson Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers and Phillip Taylor MBE, Head of Chambers and Reviews Editor, The Barrister, on Amazon (with an extended, oral, version on YouTube)
It’s a rare privilege to be asked to review this new third edition of Mark Adler’s definitive work on “Clarity for Lawyers”, now co-written with Daphne Perry, as we regard the book as a professional lifesaver.

There is a recurring theme that many senior lawyers, judges and academics raise regularly about the low quality of written communication across the business world so we welcome the decision by the Law Society to update this important title for the 2020s. …

One of the principle benefits of the new edition is the approach which we all need to adopt with the advent of IT which has lengthened documents. The language we use is also changing again so the section on “choosing words” explains much for us. …

The three appendices are particularly helpful, especially Appendix A which is “a legal writing workshop”. Do follow through the various sections and try the practical exercises. Appendix B gives a highly practical “analysis of examples” which you need to cross refer to the main text pages, and Appendix C offers brilliantly “hands on” precedents which are invaluable.

The final word must be left to Mark and Daphne who say that their aim is to help lawyers work more effectively and more efficiently. Their aim succeeds admirably. …

The two authors want this book to be “more interesting and readable than just a style guide” in the hope it will sometimes surprise us. Yes, it does, because it is a very good book which should be by your side as an excellent companion for the 2020s. …

Peter Todd, solicitor, training partner at Hodge Jones & Allen LLP, in Managing for Success, published by The Law Society
For over 20 years, I have worked with trainee solicitors who have taken a civil litigation seat at my firm. They spend six months in their seat, often in the early stages of their training. …

If I could ask [them] to do one thing before starting their seat with me, it would be to carefully read and learn from Clarity for Lawyers. … It is one of those legal books every lawyer should have read.

I read it myself when I was starting my legal career and it had a real impact on me. It radically changed the way I approached the task of drafting — be it a humble attendance note, a letter of advice, a letter of claim, witness statement, statement of case, instructions to Counsel or any of the many documents which lawyers are required to draft. This book can help significantly improve the quality and effectiveness of drafting. …

The revelation of this book is that by simplifying and clarifying drafting, you avoid mistakes and become more effective. Witness statements gain probative weight as the key evidence drives home the case with power. Letters of advice are concise, precise and easy to understand.

This latest edition offers updated knowledge to reflect current law and practice and its new co-editor, Daphne Perry, commercial barrister and legal trainer, offers fresh and relevant insight. It also includes new training materials which would be useful for in-house legal training.

A good lawyer must have the ability to communicate effectively, to persuade, advocate, negotiate and explain. The latest edition of Clarity for Lawyers is a notable contribution to this.