Writing Plain Language for Law

Legal language has an unfortunate reputation for many reasons. Since legal style clings to archaic words, structures and non-standard grammar and punctuation, it remains out of step with modern writing. It’s an area of special challenge for plain language writers and editors. Given the human costs of mistakes and misunderstandings in real life, legal language is a prime area for improvement.

In this course, you’ll learn how to modernize traditional legal language by applying the general guidelines and practices of plain language, as well as techniques for dealing with legal clichés and technical terms of law.

The final project for this course is due two weeks after the course ends (20 days after the last date listed in the schedule).

Instructional hours: 10


Location: Online
Format: Self-paced within deadlines set by instructor
Duration: 3 weeks
Tuition: $370
Can be applied to:
Plain Language Certificate

Upcoming Offerings

Register for a course at any time, with the option to apply to a program later.

Start Date
Seats Available
Start DateTue, Sep 17, 2024
  • Tue, Sep 17 (self-paced all week)
  • Tue, Sep 24 (self-paced all week)
  • Tue, Oct 1 (self-paced all week)
Seats Available24
Start DateTue, Mar 25, 2025
  • Tue, Mar 25 (self-paced all week)
  • Tue, Apr 1 (self-paced all week)
  • Tue, Apr 8 (self-paced all week)
Seats Available20

What you will learn

After completing this course, you’ll be able to do the following:

  • Convert non-standard, archaic legal grammar, punctuation and terminology to modern, standard English and to plain language
  • Modernize and update the structure and format of documents
  • Correct the most common style problems in legal language that make it aloof, impersonal and negative
  • Differentiate between readers’ identities and information needs for various legal fields and purposes like litigation, persuasion, advice letters, legal agreements or public education materials.

How you will learn and be evaluated

Prepare to spend 6-10 hours per week on coursework, including:

  • Readings
  • Assignments
  • Online discussions

You will be evaluated on:

  • Participation in discussions
  • Assignments
  • Final assignment (due 2 weeks after course ends)

Learning Materials

Course fees do not include textbooks. We recommend you purchase your textbook as soon as you’ve registered. We will provide additional course materials online.

Recommended reading:

Wydick, R.C. and Sloan, A.E. Plain English for Lawyers, 6th Edition. Carolina Academic Press, 2019. EISBN13: 9781531007003. Available from Also available as e-book from Red Shelf (U.S. purchasers only).

Stephens, C. Plain Language Legal Writing. Plain Language Wizardry, 2009. ISBN 978-055-7014507. E-book available for purchase from

Technical Requirements

For online courses, you will need a computer with audio and microphone that is connected to the internet. Canvas is the online system that will be used for the course. For more information and online support, visit Online Learning.

English language requirements

To succeed in this course, you will need an advanced level of written and spoken English. If you are unsure whether your English language skills are sufficient, we recommend you complete the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with the following minimums:

  • Overall band score minimum 6.5
  • No band below 6.0
  • Writing band score minimum 8.0

Please note we can’t refund your registration fees after the course start date if you find your English language skills are not adequate.

If you have questions or concerns about your English language proficiency, we encourage you to contact your local IELTS Test Centre.