La Trobe
38007_SOURCE01_2_A.pdf (1.95 MB)

The plain language movement and legislation: does plain language work?

Download (1.95 MB)
posted on 2023-01-18, 16:57 authored by Jeffrey Wilson Barnes
Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the School of Law, Faculty of Business, Economics and Law, La Trobe University, Bundoora.

This thesis investigates plain language legislation–legislation drafted with elements associated with the plain language movement. The objectives of participants in the movement vary greatly. In respect of lay users, an objective is that they are able to read and understand legislation directly, without the need for professional mediation. In respect of all users, including expert and other informed users, an objective is to improve the way the legal system operates. The thesis has two main purposes: to evaluate whether the various objectives have been achieved or can be achieved, and to determine the reasons for the achievement or non-achievement of those objectives. The thesis inquiry takes as its basic assumption the notion that, in its attempts to change the impact of the law, the plain language project can be usefully analysed from the perspective of the life cycle of legislation—the phases through which an Act is developed. The major phases are emergence, drafting, parliamentary consideration and enactment, implementation, and evaluation of its effects. Chapter 2 of the thesis analyses the debates about the utility of plain language legislation in terms of the life cycle of legislation. Chapter 3 investigates the emergence and drafting phases with a focus on the goal set by many participants in the plain language movement. Chapter 4 investigates the implementation of plain language legislation at the level of the courts. Chapter 5 investigates the implementation of plain language legislation at the level of the administration of the law. Chapter 6 investigates the effects of plain language legislation, as measured by empirical studies. The thesis concludes that, despite facing numerous potential obstacles in the life cycle of legislation, and despite not achieving its headline goal in the main, plain language legislation is not a mere professional writing initiative, but in a limited sense can improve the legal system and the democratic process.


Center or Department

Faculty of Business, Economics and Law. School of Law.

Thesis type

  • Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


Rights Statement

This thesis contains third party copyright material which has been reproduced here with permission. Any further use requires permission of the copyright owner. The thesis author retains all proprietary rights (such as copyright and patent rights) over all other content of this thesis, and has granted La Trobe University permission to reproduce and communicate this version of the thesis. The author has declared that any third party copyright material contained within the thesis made available here is reproduced and communicated with permission. If you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact us with the details.

Data source

arrow migration 2023-01-10 00:15. Ref: latrobe:38007 (9e0739)

Usage metrics

    Open Theses


    No categories selected



    Ref. manager