A will is a notarized document used to record the settlement of an estate. A great sentence, the notary who drafted it must have thought. It could also be a lot simpler. Steffie.nl, which specializes in simple websites, has come up with the following formula: “In the will you can write down what should happen when you die.”
This clear language was requested by the Royal Documentary Professional Organization KNB, which also believes that documentation language should be more accessible. So that’s there translation machine who must transform legal language into human language.
Why is it easy when it is hard?
The question of why lawyers often write a few steps more complicated has preoccupied many psychologists and linguists for some time. But Eric Martinez and his colleagues found out. all about it, They write in scientific journals PNAS-It’s just a matter of habit.
They ran tests, with which they made implausible alternative explanations. First, the explanation that lawyers are so accustomed to Sufi language that they don’t realize how difficult it is. A group of lawyers and non-lawyers were given contracts to read in plain language. The good news for the lawyers was that they were (obviously) better than the non-professionals at understanding and remembering texts, but the relative difference between easy and hard was about the same for both groups. In other words, terminology costs lawyers as much extra effort as it does “ordinary people”. Moreover, both groups seem to be in complete agreement about how difficult it is for the average reader to find the texts. This allowed the habituation hypothesis to go out the window.
Are you likely to show other lawyers that you belong? Or to make your product more exclusive? Or does a complex matter require precise formulas that you can only make out using legal language?
Martinez and his fellow lawyers subjected them to two tests. Take the same contracts from the first test and test them: for quality, for feasibility, for attractiveness for the client, and so on. And the contract, in plain language, always came out as a winner. Three-quarters indicated that they wanted to use this text themselves, compared to barely a quarter of the terminology contract terms. On top of that, 60 percent found a simple contract drafter suitable as a colleague, while only 30 percent wanted to work alongside a terminology contract writer.
Because it always goes that way
Martinez concluded that other hypotheses can also be crossed out. What remains is what his team calls the cut-and-paste hypothesis. Specialized jargon is used because it was also present in previous decades. It is cheaper and simpler to copy those formulas than to write something new, and it is also a matter of waiting to see the judge’s reaction if it comes to the case.
Jacob van Vorst, who carried out the project with KNB for steffie.nl, sees something in this statement. He also noted that lawyers were open to using simpler language. It is an awareness process. There are a few examples of how things could work differently. If they come, it will help.”
There are limits to that, of course. Researcher Martinez, Van Forest, and KNB agree. The trade union also hears from members trying to do this, you can’t simplify infinitely. “A will must be complete and conclusive,” says Van Voorst, and then you can never avoid jargon. “But it could be easier.”
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