Re: Legalise & Plain English -- Bylaws and investments
From: Carol Agate (
Date: Fri, 7 Mar 2014 09:01:29 -0800 (PST)
Good idea, Sharon. I taught plain English for lawyers in a law school, and used 
the Wydick book as the text. I'm now faced with rewriting our bylaws and master 
deed and am concerned about the potential cost. I haven't practiced real estate 
law and because I'm retired my license in inactive. So we clearly have to run 
my draft by the condo lawyer. I'm afraid that my changes to plain English will 
mean that without the security of boilerplate the lawyer will need a lot more 
time to review the document. Yet I hate to be stuck with things that take so 
much effort to interpret.

Your suggestion may be the way to go if he balks at the changes.


On Aug 28, 2013, at 1:45 PM, Sharon Villines <sharon [at]> 

>> The CC&Rs and By Laws are written in "legalese" reflecting their origin with 
>> our attorney, the Villager's Guide is in a more personal but still 
>> professional style. 
> I recently researched Plain English in legal documents for neighbor who is a 
> single parent trying to set up legal guardianship and financial oversight for 
> her daughter in the event of her death or disability. 
> The document her lawyer prepared is totally incomprehensible. I was grievance 
> chair, president, and board member of an AFL-CIO Union and have extensive 
> experience writing policies for a new college. I like sorting out language so 
> i do a lot of it. I could not understand in any way what any of the sections 
> related to custody meant. What was supposed to happen? Who was to take 
> custody? Keep custody? Which person had the child and which the money? Not 
> even that was clear.
> Without the document, her friends would have contacted her family and done 
> the logical thing. With the document,  not only would no one know what to do 
> but they would be afraid to do anything because they might be doing something 
> illegal.
> This is totally unnecessary and there are many guides for lawyers that assure 
> them they do not have to use 19th century boilerplate language in order to 
> write a legal document. The court will not invalidate the document -- well, 
> some courts will do anything but the Plain English movement is very old now. 
> Lawyers who have not studied it should be embarrassed. 
> You can insist on Plain English documents and choose a lawyer using this as a 
> criterion. You can also take what you are given and translate it (if you 
> can), a good check to see if you understand it.
> A Plain English will as an example:
> _Plain English for Lawyers_ by Richard Wydick is in its 5th edition and used 
> for 25 years in law schools.
> The University of Massachusetts has brief list of tips on drafting laws for 
> communities that will give you sense of how cities can use Plain English. If 
> they can, you can:
> Plain English Bylaws from a non-profit organization that are probably much 
> less detailed than condominium bylaws need to be they are a good example of 
> readability, even colloquial language in a legal document:
> And finally the website of a legal firm that represents condominiums, 
> believes in Plain English. Lots of information posted. Some recommendations 
> will be more restrictive than cohousers think they need but ......
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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