Plain Language Awards

Celebrate the stories of our clearest business communicators

Finalist: Best Plain English Sentence Transformation 2015

Julie Hutton, Saunders Robinson Brown

Name of document

Agreement for sale and purchase of land

Original sentence

The purchasers shall indemnify and keep indemnified the vendors from and against all claims, demands, writs, summonses, actions, suits proceedings, judgements, orders, decrees, damages, costs, losses and expenses of any nature whatsoever which the vendors may suffer or incur in connection with loss of life, personal injury and/or damage to property arising from or out of any occurrence upon the land or the use by the purchasers of the land or any part thereof or to any person or the property of any person using or entering or near the land or occasioned wheresoever it may occur wholly or in part by any act, negligent default or omission by the Purchaser, his employees, customers, agents, invitees or licensees and any other person or persons using or upon the land with his consent or approval expressed or implied provided that this clause shall not make the purchaser liable to indemnify the vendor against any claim arising from the wilful or negligent act, neglect or default of the vendors or their agents, servants, invitees, contractors or employees.

Rewritten sentence

The purchaser will compensate the vendor for any costs or losses that relate to:

  • the death of, or injury to, any person; and/or
  • damage to any property resulting from:
    • anything that happens on the land; or
    • the negligent use of the land by the purchaser or by anyone who the purchaser allows to use the land, unless that cost or loss was directly or indirectly the vendor’s fault.

Judges’ comment

The original sentence is a 176-word monster, loaded with legalese and unnecessary redundancy.  The reduction to only 69 words is very welcome. If you count each of your bulleted items as a sentence, then you have an average sentence length of around 15 words — a major improvement. Well done. Good work on choosing an open, bulleted structure to increase clarity and understanding, and using a sentence stem that starts in the active voice.

The simpler vocabulary style of the revision is a vast improvement on the original. Gone are the legalese, redundancy, and doublets and triplets of legal writing. Instead, we have people acting and taking responsibility for their actions. An excellent translation.

There’s really only one idea here. It’s a complex idea covering various related areas, but you’ve explained it cleanly and clearly. This rewrite was among the best we saw. It takes a very long and complex sentence and creates something clear and easily understood, which captures everything and omits nothing.

Media statement

Saunders Robinson Brown is a medium-sized South Island law firm with offices in Christchurch and Rangiora. In 2009 we resolved to adopt the use of plain English in both our legal precedent documents and client dealings.

Since then we have progressively updated our firm precedents, and also applied plain English principles to new documents entering our precedent system.

In addition, the firm has introduced plain English drafting classes for graduates and new staff members, so as to maintain the plain English philosophy, firm-wide.

We sincerely thank the WriteMark Plain English Awards Trust for the opportunity to participate in the 2015 Awards.