Oxford Guide to Plain English (5th edition)


Martin Cutts


£8.99, Oxford University Press



This book has been on my list of recommended reading ever since lawyers first started asking me to suggest a book on clear writing. The Guide to Plain English is written for all professional business writers, not just lawyers. You can’t fault its advice. Lawyers will find examples and techniques relevant to legal practice scattered throughout the book.

Chapter 28 – Making legal language lucid – focuses on legal documents but, as the author says, the principles and techniques are the same. If there is a difference, it may be that legal language stands in more need of these techniques than most writing. In other chapters, ‘lawyerly’ is a term of abuse – as in the phrase ‘piffling and lawyerly’.

It may not be comfortable to hear, but this book tells us what our clients want from contracts, guidance and explanations and, in 12 main guidelines and 18 other chapters, how to achieve it.

The book rightly says you don’t need to know much grammar to follow its advice. Many grammatical terms are neatly avoided. But it does assume you know your nouns from your verbs and adjectives. (For those who don’t, there’s a glossary, tucked away in the middle of chapter 11.)

This latest edition, which has been reorganised and updated, is as useful, practical, affordable and accessible as previous editions, if not quite as short. The extra pages include sensible advice on using inclusive language (chapter 22) and suggested alternatives to ‘shall’ and other troublesome words (chapter 13).

As my recommended reading list still says: following even half the advice in this book will make you one of the clearest communicators in the legal profession.


Former barrister Daphne Perry is the founder of ClarifyNow, a Plain English consultancy, writing and training firm, and co-author of Clarity for Lawyers

Separation and Parenting Through the Pandemic: Key Questions answered


Separation and Parenting

Bob Greig, Rebecca Giraud


£8.99, Bath Publishing


This book answers some of the questions being asked of OnlyMums & Dads, a not-for-profit support service for parents. Each question has been answered by an expert in their field.