Skip to main content

The BUSKLAW July Newsletter: Addendum to the Moral Imperative of Plain Language: The Judeo-Christian Imperative


(Note: you may want to stop here if you aren't a spiritual person in the Judeo-Christian tradition.) 

As an introduction to this post, I'll share my religious background. I was brought up in the Protestant tradition with the Dutch Reformed twist. But when friends ask me what I really believe in, I hedge my bets based on:
  • I went to Hope College, affiliated with the Reformed Church in America. 
  • I went to Notre Dame Law School, a respected Catholic institution.
  • I'm a quarter Jewish and was cared for by a fairly authentic Jewish mom (who was thankfully tempered by my 100% Danish father). 
So at the pearly gates, I'll show Saint Peter (or whoever) the three Protestant-Catholic-Jew entry tickets reflecting this background, and hopefully one (or more) will allow passage. 

So now that I've disclosed my broad-minded belief system, here's my thesis: using plain language furthers the Christian and Jewish faiths. 

Contemporary Christian evangelist Rob Bell talks about ways in which Christians can echo Christ's resurrection in this video. At 2:02 in the piece, he describes that every "fair and honest act in business and trade...belong to God's good world." We've already seen how the twin evils of legalese and bureaucratese distort what is fair and honest in our society. So avoiding them furthers God's plans for his creation and enables us to advance to a higher state of awareness. 

On the Jewish side, many Jews practice tikkun olam (literally "repair of the world"), an aspiration to behave and act constructively and beneficially. As the Wiki states: "It's the idea that Jews bear responsibility not only for their own moral, spiritual, and material welfare but also for the welfare of society at large. To the ears of contemporary pluralistic Rabbis, the term connotes 'the establishment of Godly qualities throughout the world'." This goal is hardly different than what Rob Bell is talking about! Go figure. 

Regarding contract language, it's well-established that God and the Devil love contracts. We have God's contract with Abraham in the Old Testament, and the various contracts for souls proffered by the Devil. While the former is written in plain language, the latter assuredly is not, if only because it's impossible to cover all the loopholes of soul forfeiture, so the Devil uses obfuscation to hide that fact. 

What words flow from your keyboard, and how are they structured? Are you stuck in the mire of gobbledygook? Or is your business and legal writing clear and concise and so advances God's purpose in a small yet meaningful way?  

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The BUSKLAW May Newsletter: Is There a Moral Imperative to Plain English? Part 1 - Examples

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." 

Thus begins Stephen King's epic story of the gunslinger, Roland Deschain, and the popular Dark Tower series of novels describing his adventures. But King didn't have to write this sentence that way; he could have consulted with the typical lawyer, politician, or company PR department first. Had he done so, the sentence may have appeared so:

"The bad hombre who was dressed mostly in dark clothing and running fast across an arid land was pursued by a multi-armed, extremely dangerous, and notorious vigilante."
The difference in these two sentences is clear. King's concise short sentence creates an image that grabs the reader's attention and raises provocative questions. Who is the man in black? Who is the gunslinger? Why is he after the man in black? But the Bizarro World Stephen King sentence - with its ethnic slur, passive voice, ambiguity, suppositions, and superfluous adjectives …

The BUSKLAW March Newsletter: Of Pie and Plain English

I love pie and plain English about equally, although plain English is less fattening. Pie - especially the caramel toffee apple variety - for Thanksgiving is especially grand because afterward, you can eat leftover pie for breakfast without a lot of guilt. And chances are that the rest of the household won't consider pie a suitable breakfast food, so you're good to go. 

Grand Rapids, Michigan, is blessed with an excellent source of pies: Sweetie-licious. Until recently, they had two locations: one in GR's Downtown Market and the other in beautiful East Grand Rapids. I grew up in EGR and still fond of the place. So it was very convenient to journey across town to Sweetie's EGR location to pick up a pie for holidays (or when the pie lust grew to be unbearable).

Because life isn't fair, Sweetie-licious closed its EGR location several months ago. (But mercifully their Downtown Market location is still going strong.) When I sauntered past their empty EGR storefront recent…

The BUSKLAW April Newsletter: On the Foolish Tension Between Lawyers and Business Folks

From my colleague Mark Grossmancomes this joke (just in time for April Fool's Day):
A man in a hot air balloon is lost. He reduces the balloon's height and spots a man below. He shouts, "Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?" The man below says: "Yes, you're in a hot air balloon hovering at 30 feet." "You must be a lawyer," says the balloonist. "I am," replies the man. "How did you know?" "Well," says the balloonist, "everything you have told me is technically correct, but useless." The man below says, "You must work in business." "I do," replies the balloonist, "but how did you know?" "Well," says the lawyer, "you don't know where you are, or where you're going, but you expect me to be able to help. You're in the same position you were before we met, but now it's my fault."
_______________________________________
This joke illustrates the all too …