How to become better at Legal English
Legal English is a specialised area of English that lawyers and law students should be confident in. This is our advice on developing fluency and accuracy in this area of the language.
Mastering Legal English takes time. And even as a Legal English Language teacher of 20 years’ standing, I am still learning new ways to use the language. We all need to start somewhere and we all need direction so here are a few tips on becoming a better speaker of legal and business English.
I read a lot. Books, magazines, Medium articles, websites, newspapers. Most of the time I read for enjoyment but some of the time I am looking at how sentences have been put together, how words have been chosen and which tenses have been used.
Take your time to analyse several sentences to work out how the writer has composed a paragraph. Learn from it and try and replicate the style in your own writing.
To develop a better understanding of grammar, buy a grammar book which teaches you the intricacies of the beautiful English language. Look at the examples so you get an idea of how the language works. If there are exercises do them on a separate piece of paper or photocopy the book so that you may do them several times.
Practice makes perfect
Write, read, listen and speak as much as you possibly can. Speak with friends and relatives who can also speak English, join a language exchange programme so you can swap your first language with a native speaker of English over a beer or two, listen to music from the US and the UK, watch TV shows with the subtitles on and then with the subtitles off. Immerse youself in the language as much as possible.
Write, write and write some more
Just as you should read vociferously you should also write as much as you can. Start contributing to Medium or start a blog, post long Instagram posts about the place you are in right now — fill your prose with detailed adjectives that encapsulate perfectly the beauty of the location.
Proofread and edit
After I have written several pages, I put my writing away and return to it with fresh eyes a few days later. Read through it again to see how well it flows and to pick up on any errors that you may have missed. If there are unnecessary words then edit them out.
You may also try reading the document aloud to yourself or to a friend to see whether it flows.
Improve your vocabulary
There are several ways to develop your vocabulary skills but above all I would suggest looking at a serious newspaper such as The FT or The Economist and reading an article or two. Pick ten key words from the articles and learn them — learn how they are used and how they can be placed into sentences. You should also try and incorporate them into conversations that you have.
Get a teacher
If Roger Federer and Cristiano Ronaldo still hire coaches while being at the top of their respective professions then you have no excuse. I have lost count of the number of people who have told me that they do not need a teacher just after sending a poorly written email.
Keep learning and do not get disheartened — it’s a slow and steady climb to mastery of the English language and with these tips you will get there.