Photo: Rob Suisted
This presentation shows the results and implications of an empirically grounded study in transforming a Philippine consumer-finance contract into a plain-language document. Anchored on constructivism theory, the long and tedious work comprised of the following tasks: iterative testing before and after simplification; structural and cognitive simplification; protocol-aided revision; the use of the Stylewriter editing software; the assistance of plain language experts and validation of legal specialists. The simplified document yielded favorable outcomes in terms of comprehensibility and readability. Additionally, results of the comparability study between the original and modified versions indicated statistically significant differences. These outcomes substantiated the positive gains resulting from the simplification process done. Minor redrafting was also employed based on the legal experts’ comments to ensure that all legalities were covered. The results of the study were presented to the legal team of the XXX Bank Company whose document was used in the study. Despite the very commendable feedback given, several reservations still kept the bank from adopting the modernized version of the document. In a country where the use of plain language in legal documents is still in its infancy, the Philippines serves as a very fertile ground where plain language work can flourish in the future.