Use plain English in legal documents

Recently, I visited a notary public to get some documents notarised.

When I received the notarial certificate, my attention was immediately drawn to the writing style. The first line after the title says "to all to whom these presents shall come" and the last line before the signature and stamp says "in testimony whereof I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed my seal of office this… day of... two thousand…"

The text also includes words such as "hereby", "herein", "thereof" and "hereof". Many people may not be able to understand what these words and phrases mean.

Why are we still using such odd phrasing and archaic words?

Surely the certificate should be written in plain English so that everyone can understand the document easily.

The use of plain English should apply not only to notarial certificates but also to other legal documents.

I hope the Singapore Academy of Law can look into this matter.

Kim-Gau Ng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2018, with the headline 'Use plain English in legal documents'. Subscribe