From Legalese to Plain English

One of my most recent projects was a full website of copy for Richard Timpson Solicitors and Migration Agents, who are based in Mackay QLD. It was a brilliant challenge: to get rid of the legalese, introduce some friendliness, and bring the copy to life.

Screenshot of Richard Timpson’s website

Bringing a website’s copy out of the mire of legalese and into Plain English isn’t the easiest task. It takes a solid understanding of the subject matter before any changes can take place. And if it’s a field that one is not completely au fait in, like migration, personal law, or what-​have-​you is for me, then that means asking a million questions.

In the case of this particular website, it meant that there was quite a bit of to-​ing and fro-​ing between me and my client. If I am not 100% sure about anything, I’m going to ask questions. And I did! Here’s a bit of a list of the sorts of things I needed to know:

  • what acronyms stood for
  • whether apparently duplicated content was done for a reason (or whether it meant something different; legal documents are often very specific)
  • what some terms actually meant — getting the client to explain it to me as plainly as possible
  • clarification of terms for which I was pretty certain I was right, but was not 100% about
  • and so on.

The beautiful thing about clarifying absolutely everything possible before the “real” work commences, is that it kicks me off to an informed start, and helps my clients feel confident that I’m doing everything possible to get it right. It also means that once the work starts in earnest, the process is a lot quicker, even with multiple drafts from either party.

I’m pretty happy with the way that the copy turned out for Richard’s site, and the Starfishies did a great job on the design. Congratulations guys!

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