Simplicity means is best described using this definition of plain language
A communication is in plain language if its wording, structure, and design are so clear that the intended audience can easily find what they need, understand what they find, and use that information. Source: International Plain Language Federation
So a contract needs simple language, simple structure and simple design.
As there is no such thing as a watertight contract (24 November, post), why not keep it simple and short? Follow Bryan Garner’s top 10 tips to improve your contracts (12 May, or skip to the slideshare).
WRITE your contract
Alternatively follow my WRITE process to ensure you cover:
- Who: Choose the right level of detail for each audience (22 June) and serve your readers, don’t try to impress them (26 May)
- Why: Make sure you know your ‘why’ for each clause in a contract (27 April)
- Research: Use visuals to get your contract message across (2 March) & create a logical layout (10 November)
- Index: Use technology to plan, create, sign and use contracts (8 December)
- Text: Use plain language to encourage users to read your T&C (27 April) and avoid jargon as it does not add a ’veneer of sophistication’ (30 March)
- Edit: Edit your documents to ensure they are simple (20 April). Expert documents need clarity editors as well as expertise editors (16 March)
What should you do?
If you need help ‘getting out of your own way’ then:
- If you’re a lawyer, read these tips and avoid these myths.
- If you have been told to use the passive voice, read this blog post.
- If you work with the UK government, rejoice that they have banned Latin and its abbreviations.
- If you write non-fiction (ie business writing), read Zinsser’s top 10 tips (see #2)
- If you want to avoid awful language, watch Steven Pinker’s video (h/t Jackie Barrie)
- If you want to avoid jargon, check the Ridiculous Business Jargon Dictionary.
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