Photo: Rob Suisted
The Honourable Michael Kirby AC CMG
Patron of Clarity
In this address, Michael Kirby, International Patron Of Clarity, will explore the effort to inject greater clarity into the notoriously troublesome area of legal prose, including the text of legislation and the language of judicial reasons. He will suggest some of the explanations for complexity. The basic explanation is the dual character of the English language. We speak as our Anglo-Saxon ancestors did in a Germanic tongue. But we write as the clerks to the Norman Kings wrote in a Franco-Latin way. This difference between the language of the kitchen and of the office or courthouse lies at the heart of the often needless complexity of official English. Getting lawyers to write simply and clearly involves the observance of a few simple rules. These rules should be taught in legal offices, law school lecture rooms and government departments. The urgency of embracing clear English is enhanced by the advent of word processors and computerised precedents. Heaven forbid that we should be stuck for centuries with obscure precedents immortalised by computer technology. So the challenge is urgent and important. Clarity International plays a vital role in promoting the use of clear language. It is a global challenge. It affects all languages everywhere. But none more than the English language, with its unique history and global coverage.