Victoria Law Foundation Executive Director Joh Kirby writes from Clarity2012 in Washington DC, where she is presenting the findings of her Churchill Fellowship on best practice in community legal information.
“The revelations about plain language in the law continue at Clarity2012 at the National Press Club in Washington DC. This time it was the contradiction of the contraction.
You don’t have to be a lawyer to have been told at least once in your life that using contractions (such as aren’t, wouldn’t etc…) make writing friendlier and easier to read. That theory was debunked this week by Karen Schriver, President, KSA Communication Design and Research, Pennsylvania, who showed that there was no research basis to support the use of contractions. In fact the research that does exist points to them being a hinderance for the reader, particularly for non-English speakers who can often misread or miss them in the text (so much for that theory!). Her research also debunked the idea that you should vary your sentence and paragraph length to create interest in the text – no proof for that either it would appear.
But if your office, like mine, loves to debate when capitals should be used the next point might help. Karen’s research confirmed that capitals should be used as little as possible. I can almost hear the arguments start.”