Now you are convinced of the benefits of readable contracts (read more), this post describes a process for writing those contracts with ideas from The Art of Readable Writing’ (1949) by Rudolph Flesch.
Contract Writing as a Process
“It is common ground that the [contract] in this case would win no drafting prizes for precision or clarity. It included errors (the repeated use of the word ‘tenant’ instead of the word ‘guarantors’) which are acknowledged by both sides, and it also struggled to convey the essential agreement reached between the parties.” Perriam v Wayne 
My WRITE process helps you organise your contract writing so you can avoid winning the wrong sort of prizes for your writing!
Who/Why: as Flesch says “study your audience and then write in the form that is most likely to appeal to them” [p19] The Consumer Rights Act 2015 requires consumer contracts to be transparent in its widest possible meaning ie taking a form which ensures any consumer can find what she needs, understand what she finds and then comply with her obligations. That is not how many consumer contracts are currently written! If less than 1% of people read online T&C what can you do to make sure they read yours? You also need to convey the essential agreement, the why of the contract (read more).
The art of writing a readable contract is to write to encourage and entice the parties to read your contract.
The art of writing a readable contract is to focus on getting its purpose across, your why.
Research: Flesch cites Schopenhauer who claimed that “the first rule for good style is having something to say” to which Flesch adds that you need to have a ‘good stock of facts.’ Writing without research is vanity – your contract ought to say something new & relevant. I have received terms and conditions which spent a long time reciting how our contract was made – but that is a matter of past history and one for the courts to determine. Does your contract say something important? Or does it tell the judges what to think (which they don’t like)? I have seen contracts that tell judges that the parties ‘have agreed that X is [fair][a substantial alternative remedy][genuine pre-estimate of loss]‘ all of which can be overturned by the courts’ actual interpretation. I have also reviewed contracts which contained terms which were unenforceable eg in B2C contracts the company cannot charge consumers interest under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act, as that Act does not apply.
The art of writing a readable contract is to make every word count: it must have a real measurable impact on the parties.
Index: Before you start to put a single finger to a keyboard or ink a word onto paper, you need a period (or two) of reflection (read more). Flesch says “Every professional writer knows that [a] period of just-sitting-and-thinking between legwork and outline is the most important part of the whole writing process.” [pp27-28] Your structure is critical for readable writing – for contracts that means collating the obligations of each party into one paragraph, and putting the project specific information into a cover sheet or key facts table. This is what I did to simplify contracts for house improvements for disabled and elderly people. Although the legal content was merely tweaked, the structure was completely revised to make it easier for unsophisticated and vulnerable clients to know exactly what they had to do. You could use Verity White’s reverse contract sandwich (read more).
The art of writing a readable contract is to make it easy for the parties to find what they need.
Text: Flesch urges writers to “say what you have to say, and then stop” [p48]. How tempting is it to copy and paste clauses from boilerplate terms, previous contracts or the web to bulk out your content? And when I challenge those ‘standard small print’ terms many writers do not know how ineffective they can be when challenged in court – eg ‘entire agreement’ clauses which rarely do what the writers think, ‘no oral variations’ clauses which have been overturned by recent cases, ‘no waiver’ clauses can be ignored if the conduct of the users shows they didn’t actually follow their own contract procedures, ‘governing law & jurisdiction’ clauses can be overridden by local laws.
The art of writing a readable contract is to include enough for a robust legal contract but no more.
Edit: Flesch says that “Remember that there is no law that says you have to write like everybody else... We write stilted English because we unconsciously assume that this is expected of us… if we analyzed the situation we would find this isn’t true; but we never do” [pp204-5] Although that comment about the importance of editing was not directed at lawyers and contract writers, this one certainly is:
“All you need is to stop being stuffy and talk like a human being … But there is one profession that thinks it can’t write without long sentences: the lawyers. They maintain that all possible qualifications of an idea have to be put into a single sentence or legal documents would be no good” [p111]
The art of writing a readable contract is to ensure the parties can understand everything that they read.