Legal Writing Tip: Get Moving on The Plain English Movement

The Plain English movement is now several decades old. But as a professional editor, I’m still astonished at the wordy and legalese-laden documents out there. Whether you’re bumping up against page limits or just want your document to be more readable, consider substituting the following Plain English phrases. Contrary to what you might think, using Plain English won’t dumb down your document.  It’s actually far harder to write simply – but that’s why clients pay you the big bucks.

Wordy  → Plain English


Prior to → before

At the present time → now

In the event that → if

Provided that → if

Set forth in → in

In order that/to/for → so/to/for

A large number of → many

Pertaining to → about, of

As a means of → to

Acquire → get

Successfully finish/accomplish → finish/accomplish

Until such time as → until

Purchase → buy

Is authorized to → can, may

Adjacent to → next to, near

Utilize → use

Is responsible for → handles

Until such time as → until

With the exception of → except for

Locate → find

A number of → some, many

Is unable to → cannot

Due to the fact that → because

Make reference to → refer to

At no time → never

Commence → start

With the exception of → except, except for

Take into consideration → consider

In excess of → more than

In close proximity → near

On a number of occasions → often, sometimes

Take action to → [ditch and don’t replace]

During such time as → while

With reference to → about

Despite the fact that → despite, though

In relation to → about, to, with

During the course of → during

The month of → [ditch and don’t replace]

In a timely manner → on time, promptly

Subsequent to → after

Sufficient number of → enough

Of course, your first draft will be littered with the wordier, stuffier phrases.  That’s okay – that’s what first drafts are for. Just be on the lookout for Plain English replacements while editing.