Alan Siegel: Let’s simplify legal jargon! Tax forms, credit agreements, healthcare legislation They’re crammed with gobbledygook, says Alan Siegel, and incomprehensibly long. He calls for a simple, sensible redesign — and plain English — to make legal paperwork intelligible to the rest of us.TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Featured speakers have included Al Gore on climate change, Philippe Starck on design, Jill Bolte Taylor on observing her own stroke, Nicholas Negroponte on One Laptop per Child, Jane Goodall on chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes, Pattie Maes on the “Sixth Sense” wearable tech, and “Lost” producer JJ Abrams on the allure of mystery. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and TEDTalks cover these topics as well as science, business, development and the arts. Closed captions and translated subtitles in a variety of languages are now available on, at Watch a highlight reel of the Top 10 TEDTalks at

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    24 Responses to “Alan Siegel: Let’s simplify legal jargon!”

    1. Waranoa Says:

      The reading on drosophila is also to get you acquainted with reading large amounts, and coping with going to extensive amounts of knowledge to find the important bits; it’s a classical scientific skill. I find the jargon in science to be quite easy as well; yes, it is extensive, and sometimes confusing, but the terms are usually clearly defined (in the natural sciences) and definitions are easily accesible.

    2. TAHK15 Says:

      so true lol

    3. myindigoessence Says:

      @Waranoa I do understand now (reluctantly) and know why we have to study fruit flies, I was more concerned about everyday people being able to extract that pertinent information. I guess we have mags like Scientific American that helps to put things in more readable text, and really, the priority for understanding credit card agreement is much higher than primary articles in PNAS. I’m just saying there’s a GAP in scientific literacy.

    4. HellBeast66 Says:

      i think this guy makes a really good point. there are so many documents out there that dont need to be so long. and get rid of fine print to. if i’m dealing with a company i want them to be direct and honest with me.

    5. Waranoa Says:

      @myindigoessence Yes there is a kind of communications gap between science and the general public; I don’t think it’s the jargon, but just the fact that science is a very specialised field (like jurisdiction). I myself would love to improve this communication, working for a newspaper or magazine or something. But laypeople that are interested in science, can pick up a popsci mag like American Scientist or whatever, whereas such thing exists about legalities etc. Anyway, I think we agree 😉

    6. seanankerr Says:

      Yes yes of course but egad, eradicate incomprehensible jargon and you wipe out 50% of the professions in one fell swoop, there’s a reason why an average person might look at a painting and call it colourful whilst a fine art graduate would call it “spectrally dynamic” usually all a college education bestows is an understanding of and license to converse in the language of the trade, if ordinary people understood the law who’d need an accountant or solicitor?

    7. nilbud Says:


    8. Contradiction11 Says:

      The only reason this is accepted is because it was slowly titrated into the commercial world over a hundred years. The economic infrastructure supports millions of people with useless jobs. No one should NEED a lawyer. If you can’t defend yourself in plain language, you need a doctor. Keeping people’s jobs is not reason enough to waste countless hours and dollars on garbage. EVOLVE ALREADY PEOPLE! Life should support life.

    9. Elusefelier Says:

      Epic idea. The more simple and focused we keep the communication between the government and the people, the less confusion there will be.

      The way I see it, such confusion can often be a means of manipulating and frightening people into doing unwise things. This is not only an irrational approach to running a country, but also immoral on a fundamental level.

      Fantastic video.

    10. 0Krusnik0 Says:

      I think lawyers and politicans should first off be paid way less. People are doing these jobs for money, not because they want to. Therefore, when they can cheat you out of money, they will because they don’t care about you.

    11. Peterlisinski Says:

      Hello, I am conducting some research for a small linguistic essay concerning the meaning of the internet word LOL. I would be very grateful if you would quickly answer the questions below about how you use and interpret the word.

      Does it mean?

      A: To actually laugh out loud.

      B: To express mild amusement.

      C: To express large amusement.

      D: To express appreciation.

      E: None of the above (if so please specify the actual meaning).

    12. Peterlisinski Says:

      Appendix to the questionnaire.
      Feel free to answer more than one alternative if you think the words meaning differs dependent on the context. Do you think that people in general agree on these contextual differences? Yes or no?

    13. derman077 Says:

      here here .see, simple.

    14. VarykGerai Says:

      @Peterlisinski milds amusement

    15. zbigniewzapora Says:

      What if I don’t want to take part in democracy but want to be left alone? Will you shoot me for living peacefully outside of your social system?

    16. theburninator88 Says:

      @zbigniewzapora no need for shooting and I don’t know where that came from but what I was trying to say was that in order to live in a society there must be certain limitations to individual freedoms (killing, stealing, etc). But if you wish to go live on your own and not care about the amazing technological advancements humans are making, go for it, I for one want to stay along for the ride and see where this takes us

    17. nerdyharry Says:

      @purpleprinc3 that should be a bumper sticker

    18. zbigniewzapora Says:

      I agree that there must be limitations, but I don’t agree that democracy is best way to achieve that. As for second part I don’t know what you are talking about. I just don’t want to be forcefully part of any social organization (ever tried to secede from government? I guess they don’t even give you that possibility and if you try to stop paying taxes then at some point shooting or inprisonment will start).

    19. zbigniewzapora Says:

      As long as you give consent to a system in which shooting me due to disagreement is possibility it doesnt matter whether you shoot or police enforcing laws written by politicians you elect do – effect is the same and you are part of this. Even if you don’t vote for politicians that are in office or make such laws you still are supporting system which says – he who has most votes makes laws that everyone must obey under threat of death should they choose to oppose.

    20. nownowq Says:

      If there was one thing I could get behind, this would be it. How much money would America, both the citizens and the government save if we simplified jargon so that we didn’t need as many lawyers?

    21. Melki Says:

      @nownowq I say people would hire even more lawyers as they could understand the law better 🙂

    22. mrbenderson005 Says:

      Thank god someone is finally voicing this in a public audience. With any luck, we’ll have most legal documentation simplified by 2050, after the beaurocrats have sorted it all out.

    23. madass888 Says:

      The reason why people don’t want to use clear language is that they don’t want to be clear.

    24. crudhousefull Says:

      @zbigniewzapora No…but you will be deported