Joseph Kimble

kimble joe

Distinguished Professor Emeritus

B.A. Amherst College 1967
J.D. University of Michigan 1972

[email protected]
SSRN Author Page

"I think no reform would more fundamentally improve our profession and the work we do than learning to express ourselves in plain language."

Professor Kimble was a staff attorney for the Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals. He later practiced law in Flint, Michigan, and was an adjunct professor at WMU–Cooley. He joined the full-time faculty in 1984.


He is senior editor of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing and the longtime editor of the "Plain Language" column in the Michigan Bar Journal. He also writes an editing column called “Redlines” for Judicature.


He has published dozens of articles on legal writing and written three popular books — Lifting the Fog of Legalese: Essays on Plain Language; Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please: The Case for Plain Language in Business, Government, and Law; and Seeing Through Legalese: More Essays on Plain Language. He has lectured on writing to legal organizations in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. He served as a drafting consultant to the Sixth Circuit Committee on Pattern Jury Instructions and the Michigan Committee on Standard Criminal Jury Instructions. He now serves as the drafting consultant to the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Judicial Conference of the United States. He led the redrafting of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules of Evidence.


Professor Kimble is also a past president of the international organization Clarity, served as the executive director of Scribes (the American Society of Legal Writers), is a founding director of the Center for Plain Language, and was on the board of the Legal Writing Institute. He is a Fellow of the State Bar of Michigan and the American Bar Foundation, and a member of the State Bar's Publications Committee.


In 2000, he was named a "Plain English Champion" by the Plain English Campaign, in England. He is one of the first persons to receive that award. In 2007, he won the first Plain Language Association International Award for being a "champion, leader, and visionary in the international plain-language field." He has twice won a prestigious Burton Award for Reform in Law — in 2007 for his work on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and in 2011 for his work on the Federal Rules of Evidence. In 2010, he won a lifetime-achievement award from the Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research of the Association of American Law Schools. In 2015, he received the John W. Reed Lawyer Legacy Award from the State Bar of Michigan. And in 2017, Scribes created the Joseph Kimble Distinguished Service Award.


Professor Kimble taught Research & Writing and Advanced Research & Writing. He developed the original course for Introduction to Law I. He is now senior director of WMU–Cooley's Kimble Center for Legal Drafting.

Some of his articles are collected at


Articles (Law Reviews and Law Journals)

  • Joseph Kimble, Flimsy Claims for Legalese and False Criticisms of Plain Language: A 30-Year Collection, 19 Scribes J. Legal Writing 1 (2020).
  • Joseph Kimble, The Meaning of Sex in Michigan's Civil Rights Act—and the Expedient Overconfidence of Textualism, 35 W.Mich.U. Cooley L. Rev. 152 (2019).
  • Joseph Kimble, Deep in the Weeds of Textualism, 21 Green Bag 2d 297 (Summer 2018). Reprinted in 18 Scribes J. Legal Writing 37 (2018-2019).
  • Joseph Kimble, How Lockhart Should Have Been Decided (Canons Are Not the Key), Judicature, Winter 2017, at 40.
  • Joseph Kimble, What the Michigan Supreme Court Wrought in the Name of Textualism and Plain Meaning: A Study of Cases Overruled, 2000-2015, 62 Wayne L. Rev. 347 (2017).
  • Joseph Kimble, A Curious Criticism of Plain Language, 13 Legal Comm. & Rhetoric: JALWD 181 (Fall 2016).
  • Joseph Kimble, Ejusdem Generis: What Is It Good For?, Judicature, May 2016, at 48.
  • Joseph Kimble, The Doctrine of the Last Antecedent, the Example in Barnhart, Why Both Are Weak, and How Textualism Postures, 16 Scribes J. Legal Writing 5 (2014-2015).
  • Joseph Kimble, You Think Lawyers Are Good Drafters?, 17 Green Bag 2d 41 (Autumn 2014).
  • Joseph Kimble, Lessons in Drafting from the New Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 12 Scribes J Legal Writing 25 (2008-2009). Reprinted from Mich. B.J., Aug. 2007, at 62; Sept. 2007, at 48; Oct. 2007, at 44; Nov. 2007, at 46; Dec. 2007, at 50.
  • Joseph Kimble, A Crack at Federal Drafting, Court Rev., Spring 2002, at 44. Reprinted in 10 Scribes J. Legal Writing 67 (2005-2006).
  • Joseph Kimble, The Straight Skinny on Better Judicial Opinions, 9 Scribes J. Legal Writing 1 (2003-2004).
  • Joseph Kimble, How to Mangle Court Rules and Jury Instructions, 8 Scribes J. Legal Writing 39 (2001-2002).
  • Joseph Kimble, First Things First: The Lost Art of Summarizing, Court Rev., Summer 2001, at 30. Reprinted in 8 Scribes J. Legal Writing 103 (2001-2002).
  • Joseph Kimble, Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please, 6 Scribes J. Legal Writing 1 (1996-1997). 
  • Joseph Kimble, Answering the Critics of Plain Language, 5 Scribes J. Legal Writing 51 (1994-1995). Also published in part in Clarity No. 32, Mar. 1995, at 8; and in Proceedings of the International Conference on Plain Language, Nov. 1995, at 98. 
  • Joseph Kimble, The Many Misuses of Shall, 3 Scribes J. Legal Writing 61 (1992).
  • Joseph Kimble, Plain English: A Charter for Clear Writing, 9 T.M.Cooley L. Rev. 1 (1992). Reprinted in three parts, 71 Mich. B.J. 1064, 1190,1302 (1992).
  • Joseph Kimble, A Plain English Primer, 33 Prac. Lawyer 83 (1987).

Books and Chapters in Books

  • Joseph Kimble, Seeing Through Legalese: More Essays on Plain Language (Carolina Academic Press 2017).
  • Joseph Kimble, Writing For Dollars, Writing To Please: The Case for Plain Language in Business, Government, and Law (Carolina Academic Press 2012).
  • Joseph Kimble, Lifting the Fog of Legalese: Essays on Plain Language (Carolina Academic Press 2006).

Short Works

  • Joseph Kimble & Jonathan Brignall, A Medical Power of Attorney, Mich. B.J., July 2020, at 42.
  • Joseph Kimble, Getting One-Upped: A Plain-Language Redraft Made Plainer, Mich. B.J., June 2020, at 42.
  • Joseph Kimble, Testifying Before the Michigan Legislature on Drafting in Michigan's Administrative Rules, Mich. B.J., Feb. 2020, at 40.
  • Joseph Kimble, Clunky Drafting Mucks Up Michigan's Power of Attorney for Health Care, Mich. B.J., Jan. 2020, at 44.
  • Joseph Kimble, Time for a Clearer, Plainer Alternative to Our Lawyer's Oath?, Mich. B.J., May 2019, at 36.
  • Joseph Kimble, The Meaning of "Sex" in Michigan's Civil Rights Act—and the Expedient Overconfidence of Textualism, Mich. Law. Wkly., April 1, 2019, at 4.
  • Joseph Kimble & Mark Cooney, A Start Toward Clarity, Mich. B.J., Sept. 2018, at 44.
  • Joseph Kimble, Ideological Judging: The Record of Textualism, Natl .J., Aug. 1, 2018, at 79.
  • Joseph Kimble, Revisiting the Writing Contests (on Wordiness), Mich. B.J., Feb. 2018, at 40.
  • Joseph Kimble, Revisiting the Writing Contests (on Structure), Mich. B.J., Jan. 2018, at 40.
  • Joseph Kimble, Revisiting the Writing Contests (on Boilerplate), Mich. B.J., Dec. 2017, at 38.
  • Joseph Kimble, Revisiting the Writing Contests (on Ambiguity), Mich. B.J., Nov. 2017, at 36.
  • Joseph Kimble, The Doctrine of the Last Antecedent: A Case Study in Flimsiness, 14 Legal Comm. & Rhetoric: JALWD 129 (Fall 2017).
  • Joseph Kimble, The Ideology of Textualism, Mich. Law. Wkly., Aug. 22, 2017, at 4.
  • Joseph Kimble, The Proof is in the Reading: Solid Evidence That Plain Language Works Best, Mich. B.J., Oct. 2016, at 52.
  • Joseph Kimble, The Puzzle of Trailing Modifiers, Mich. B.J., Jan. 2016, at 38.
  • Joseph Kimble, What Plain Language Is Not, Mich. B.J., Dec. 2015, at 42.
  • Joseph Kimble, Joseph A. Prokop Jr., Strike Three for Legalese, Mich B.J., Mar. 2014, at 40.
  • Joseph Kimble, 30 Years and Counting, Mich. B.J., Jan. 2014, at 38.
  • Joseph Kimble, You Think the Law Requires Legalese?, Mich. B.J., Nov. 2013, at 48
  • Joseph Kimble, You Think Anybody Likes Legalese?, Mich. B.J., Aug. 2013, at 52.
  • Joseph Kimble, Wrong—Again—About Plain Language, Mich. B.J., July 2013, at 44. Reprinted in Clarity No. 69, Jan. 2013, at 31.
  • Joseph Kimble, How To Dominate Your Reader—and Make Stewie Griffin Proud, Mich. B.J., May 2013, at 50. Also published in 30 T.M. Cooley L. Rev. 195 (2013).
  • Joseph Kimble, Tips For Better Writing In Law Reviews (and Other Journals), Mich. B.J., Oct. 2012, at 46. Also published in 30 T.M. Cooley L. Rev. 191 (2013).
  • Joseph Kimble, Please Vote on Two Versions of Our Lawyer's Oath, Mich. B.J., Jan. 2011, at 48.
  • Joseph Kimble, The Best Test of a New Lawyer's Writing, Mich. B.J., Dec. 2010, at 40.
  • Joseph Kimble, Where Should the Citations Go?, Mich. B.J., July 2010, at 56.
  • Joseph Kimble, Please Vote on Two Citation Formats, Mich. B.J., May 2010, at 44.
  • Joseph Kimble, One Last Example from the Proposed New Federal Rules of Evidence, Mich. B.J., Nov. 2009, at 50.
  • Joseph Kimble, Still Another Example from the Proposed New Federal Rules of Evidence, Mich. B.J., Oct. 2009, at 54.
  • Joseph Kimble, Another Example from the Proposed New Federal Rules of Evidence, Mich. B.J., Sept. 2009, at 46.
  • Joseph Kimble, A Drafting Example from the Proposed New Federal Rules of Evidence, Mich. B.J., Aug. 2009, at 52.
  • Joseph Kimble, Cleaning Up a Release, Mich. B.J., Mar. 2008, at 38.
  • Joseph Kimble, Littering with Legalese, or Get a Load of This Release, Trial, Oct. 2007, at 60. Reprinted in Mich. B.J., Feb. 2008, at 50.
  • Joseph Kimble, To the Trashcan with And/Or, Mich. B.J., Mar. 2007, at 44.
  • Joseph Kimble, Hunting Down Nouners, Trial, Jan. 2007, at 62. Reprinted in Mich. B.J., Feb. 2007, at 44.
  • Joseph Kimble, Testifying to Plain Language, Mich. B.J., June 2006, at 45.
  • Joseph Kimble, Guiding Principles for Restyling the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Parts 1 & 2), Mich. B.J., Sept. 2005, at 56; October 2005, at 52.
  • Joseph Kimble, The Jury Revisited, 88 Judicature 284, 289 (2005).
  • Joseph Kimble, You Be the Judge (Again), Mich. B.J., Jan. 2005, at 56.
  • Joseph Kimble, You Be the Judge, Mich. B.J., Dec. 2004, at 40.
  • Joseph Kimble, Never Mind In Witness Whereof, Mich. B.J., Oct. 2004, at 54.
  • Joseph Kimble, Nuts to Further Affiant Sayeth Naught, Mich. B.J., Sept. 2004, at 48.
  • Joseph Kimble, Down With Provided That, Mich. B.J., July 2004, at 40.
  • Joseph Kimble, A Pox on Prior to, Mich. B.J., June 2004, at 48.
  • Joseph Kimble, In Terms of in terms of, Mich. B.J., Nov. 2002, at 44.
  • Joseph Kimble, The Elements of Plain Language, Mich. B.J., Oct. 2002, at 44.
  • Joseph Kimble, Plain Words, Mich. B.J., Aug. 2001, at 72; Sept. 2001, at 72. Also published in part in Trial, July 2001, at 94.
  • Joseph Kimble, The Best Test of a New Lawyer's Writing, Trial, June 2001, at 78. Reprinted in Mich. B.J., July 2001, at 62.
  • Joseph Kimble, Why Lawyers Should Write in Plain English, T.M. Cooley Coffee Break Newsletter(Apr. 2001).
  • Joseph Kimble, The Great Myth That Plain Language Is Not Precise, Bus. L. Today, July-Aug. 2000, at 48. Reprinted in 7 Scribes J. Legal Writing 109 (1998-2000).
  • Joseph Kimble, A Modest Wish List for Legal Writing, Trial, Jan. 2000, at 89. Reprinted in 79 Mich. B.J. 1574 (2000) and in Montana Lawyer, Apr. 2006, at 12.
  • Joseph Kimble, How to Write an Impeachment Order, Court Rev., Summer 1999, at 8. Reprinted in 78 Mich. B.J. 1304 (1999) and in Clarity No. 44, Dec. 1999, at 10.
  • Joseph Kimble, The Lessons of One Example, Clarity No. 42, Sept. 1998, at 59.
  • Joseph Kimble, Lawyers Need to Learn the Elements of Style, Nat'l L.J., Nov. 10, 1997, at A21. Reprinted in Briefs (Ingham County Bar Ass'n.), Apr. 1998, at 1.
  • Joseph Kimble, The Route to Clear Jury Instructions, 6 Scribes J. Legal Writing 163 (1996-1997). Reprinted in 78 Mich. B.J. 1406 (1999).
  • Joseph Kimble, Don't Stop Now: An Open Letter to the SEC, 76 Mich. B.J . 852 (1997). Reprinted in Clarity No. 40, August 1997, at 34; and in In Brief (Legal Secretaries Int'l), Jan. 1998, at 21.
  • Joseph Kimble, A South African Diary: New Laws for a New Country, Briefs (Ingham County Bar Ass'n), Nov. 1996, at 10.
  • Joseph Kimble, Pitching Plain Language to the American Bar Association, Clarity No. 34, Jan. 1996, at 23.
  • Joseph Kimble, Notes Toward Better Legal Writing, 5 Scribes J. Legal Writing 148 (1994-1995). Reprinted, with additions, in 75 Mich. B.J. 1072 (1996).
  • Joseph Kimble, In Defense of IRAC (As Far As It Goes), The Second Draft (Legal Writing Inst.), Nov. 1995, at 10.
  • Joseph Kimble, On Legal-Writing Programs, 2 Perspectives 43 (1994).
  • Joseph Kimble, The Influence of a Little Column, 73 Mich. B J 32 (1994).
  • Joseph Kimble, Teaching Legal Drafting, 3 Scribes J. Legal Writing 148 (1992).
  • Joseph Kimble, Yes to Plain English, The Second Draft (Legal Writing Inst.), Oct. 1991, at 2.
  • Joseph Kimble, I'm Ready: Learning Research and Reasoning Through Audiotapes, 3 Trends in Law Library Mgmt. & Tech. 1 (Dec. 1989-Jan.1990). Reprinted in 3 Integrated Legal Res. 34 (Winter 1990-91).
  • Joseph Kimble, Strike Three for Legalese (includes legal-language survey), 69 Mich. B.J. 418 (1990). Reprinted in Australian Legal Practice, Jan. 1994, at 8.
  • Joseph Kimble,  Why We Need a Plain English Law, 67 Mich. B.J. 1192 (1988).
  • Joseph Kimble,  Survey: Plain English Wins Every Which Way, 66 Mich. B.J. 1024 (1987).
  • Joseph Kimble, Protecting Your Writing From Law Practice, 66 Mich. B.J. 912 (1987).
  • Joseph Kimble and F. Georgann Wing, Protecting Your Writing From Law School: An Open Letter to Law Students, 65 Mich. B.J. 576 (1986). 

Editing Positions

  • Editor, "Plain Language" column,  Michigan Bar Journal (1988-present).
  • Senior Editor, The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing (2013-present); editor in chief (2001-2012); managing editor (1996-2000).
  • Editor, "Redlines" column, Judicature (2016-present).
  • Guest editor, Clarity No. 32, Mar. 1995; Clarity No. 42, Sept. 1998.
  • Editor, "Michigan Opinion Notes" column, Michigan Bar Journal (1986-1992).

Blog Posts

Other Writings

  • Joseph Kimble & Jonathan Brignall, Power of Attorney for Healthcare (in behalf of the Kimble Center for Legal Drafting).
  • Joseph Kimble & Mark Cooney, Revised Bylaws for WMU-Cooley Law School (2017).
  • Joseph Kimble, Revised Constitution and Bylaws for Scribes—The American Society of Legal Writers (2004).
  • Joseph Kimble, Philip Knight & Christopher Balmford, Human Rights Commission Bill (demonstration project), South African Ministry of Justice (1995).
  • Joseph Kimble, Resolution in Support of Plain Language, Conference of the Legal Writing Inst. (1992).
  • Joseph Kimble, & F. Georgann Wing. Legal Research and Reasoning: An Audio Guide to the Steps (teaching materials: scripts for nine audiotapes) (1989; rev. multiple times).
  • Joseph Kimble, A Short Course in Opinion Writing, Mich. State Court Admin. Office (1987).
  • Joseph Kimble, Sales Contract and Exclusive-Right-to-Sell Contract (two forms), Mich. Ass'n of Realtors (1997)

In-Depth Interviews

  • "Interview with Joseph Kimble, author of Lifting the Fog of Legalese: Essays on Plain Language," Bimonthly Review of Law Books, July–Aug. 2006, at 1.
  • "Scholar Champions Clearer Legal Writing," The Editorial Eye, Aug. 2006, at 6.
  • "Plain Language and Legal Writing: A Conversation with Joe Kimble," 15 Issues in Writing 150 (2005).


  • Professor Kimble has given over 175 seminars and presentations in the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.  See the list here.


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