Create confidence with plain language

This blog was prompted by a tweet from plain language specialist Cheryl Stephens. She was reviewing a UK Act of Parliament or law.

‘Cease to have effect on’

Many Acts of Parliament use a particular phrase to state when an Act, right or permission ends. This extract comes from The Pollution Prevention and Control (Industrial Emissions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013:

(5) Subject to paragraphs (6) and (7), where a surrender is notified under this regulation the permit shall cease to have effect on the date specified in the notification or, in the case of partial surrender, shall cease to have effect on that date to the extent surrendered.

Just in case you thought it was limited to this Act, a Google search for the phrase “shall cease to have effect on” provides over 1 million results covering Conventions on Child Abduction, the Indian Constitution, the Hague Convention, the World Trade Organization, and many more.

What does it really mean? I think it means the ‘permit will expire on’ but as I am not the person who drafted it, I cannot be sure.

If laws cannot be understood, then they create confusion. Laws should allow people to be confident they know what is expected of them.

What should you do?

Contracts should allow the partners involved to be confident they know what is expected of them.

Create clear contracts and avoid legalese.

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