News from Write, April 2010

Dear Friend

Plain Language is in the news again — and we're excited! We've recently heard from our friends in Washington that the United States House of Representatives has passed the 2010 Plain Language Act. The new law will require federal agencies to write government information in plain, reader-friendly language.

Read the press release at

And if you’re interested in supporting an independent lobby group that is trying to achieve the same result in New Zealand, think about joining Plain English Power.  

Farewell to Michelle Eathorne

We can hardly believe it ourselves, but after 13 years at Write, Michelle is leaving to start a new chapter in her life. If you've booked writing training with Write since 1997, chances are you've chatted with, visited with, or had email conversations with Michelle. Many of you have become friends and we know you'll be as sad as we are to see her go.

Michelle has made an enormous contribution to Write and leaves big shoes to fill. Needless to say — we'll miss her and wish her all the very best for her new adventures.

More free lunchtime seminars

Our popular lunchtime seminars continue in April.

Friday, 9 April: From Page to Stage — a workshop preview
Come and get a glimpse into our 1-day presentation workshop and some tips on delivering your presentation with punch and panache.

The next 1-day From Page to Stage workshop is on Monday, 19 April with trainer Margaret Austin.

Friday, 23 April: Improve your Writing with StyleWriter
Find out how this useful editing software can improve your writing.

All the seminars are from 12.15–1.00pm at our Lambton Quay premises. Feel free to bring your lunch — we provide coffee, tea, and juice.

Email to book or to find out more.

Writing tip: Shall

'Shall' is among the most misused words in legal writing. It's high time it disappeared from plain English writing. Here’s why you shouldn't use 'shall'.

In law, 'shall' is supposed to mean 'has a duty to'. But lawyers often use it in place of 'is', 'will', 'may', and 'should', muddying its meaning — as these examples show.

  • This agreement shall be governed by the laws of ...
    Here, the meaning is 'will be', not 'has a duty to be'. Using 'is' works much better. The text is stating a legal fact, and using the future tense here just confuses readers.
  • No person shall enter the property ...
    Here, the meaning is that no one is allowed to enter. The text is expressing a right, not a duty. So the word 'may' is more appropriate.
  • All visitors shall remove their shoes.
    Here, 'shall' is used to express a duty. Use 'must' instead.

Avoid confusion — work out the real meaning of 'shall' in the sentence and replace it with a more appropriate word.

These days, people rarely use 'shall' in everyday speech. It sounds pompous and old-fashioned. Leave 'shall' in the past, and use simple, familiar language instead.

Meet plain English specialist Tania McAnearney

Tania, who is based in Auckland, specialises in assessing and revising legal (and general) documents to meet plain English standards. She enjoys working closely with clients to make sure their documents work well for their audience.

Before she joined the Write team, Tania lived in South Africa and ran her own company specialising in legal research, editing, and writing. As a qualified lawyer, she often assisted the Law Society of South Africa with its submissions to parliament, as well as writing speeches, press releases, and delivering presentations. Tania also writes articles for legal magazines. She now combines her legal, writing, and editing experience to add to Write's range of specialist skills.

To contact Tania, email our Document Clarity Team:

Join a team to clarify a legal document

The international Clarity2010 conference in Portugal in October this year will bring together plain language specialists, information designers, and legal experts from around the world. They'll exchange experiences and ideas about promoting clear communication in the public and private sectors.

Clarity2010 is looking for law students, information designers and plain language practitioners to work in teams, turning complex legal documents into works of dazzling clarity. You'll get the chance to present your projects during the conference and get feedback from the world’s top experts.

If you’re interested, Clarity will put you in touch with potential team members around the globe.

Subscribing to our newsletter

If you've received this newsletter as a 'Forward' from someone else, and you'd like to subscribe, email Michelle Rumens. She'll be happy to add you to our list.


Lynda Harris


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