I used to love the Mr Men books by Roger Hargreaves. Not so much for their stories (bad turns to good) but for the simplicity of the illustrations. As Roger Hargreaves’ wikipedia entry says the books were
simple and humorous stories, with brightly coloured, boldly drawn illustrations … part of popular culture since 1971
And yet, the simplicity of those illustrations was very hard to copy as his son Adam found after his father’s death in 1988. Later, the use of computer-aided illustrations spoilt everything. It became too easy to add distracting details, shading, nuances and pernickety aspects that made no impact on the reader. The extra details detract from the simplicity of the story, and stifle the innovation and creativity of its readers, and are not easy to grasp or remember. The newer Mr Men books were left to go dusty on our shelf…
So it was with contracts. Originally simple documents, the rise of word-processing on computers spoilt everything. It became too easy to add distracting clauses, one-sided shading, to hide nuances and ambiguities, and to insert pernickety aspects that made no change to the behaviour of the parties, but safeguarded one party’s rights if push-came-to-shove. These extra terms detract from the simplicity of the transaction, stifle collaboration and innovation, and do not help the contract users.
If only we had to use simple tools to create our contracts, like the Persian clay or Roman wax tablets describing simple contracts, then perhaps our contracts would be documents we would like to read, could easily understand and use. These would not get left to go dusty on a shelf.