Mr Men vs Ms Contract Writer

I 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.

My kids were unlucky enough to be attracted by the new titles, when  (imho) computer-aided illustrations spoilt everything. That tool made it easier (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. Computers made it easier (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.

What should we do?

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.

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