Legalese is bad for your business

It was 1942, in the midst of WWII when Franklin D. Roosevelt’s government wrote this memo:

“Such preparations shall be made as will completely obscure all Federal buildings and non-Federal buildings occupied by the Federal government during an air raid for any period of time from visibility by reason of internal or external illumination.”

Roosevelt’s reply? “Tell them that in buildings where they have to keep the work going to put something across the windows; and in the buildings where they can let the work stop for a while, to turn out the lights.”


We’ve all read plenty of contracts written like that first memo. Unreadable contracts exist because drafters have traditionally chosen legal protection over utility. But, this approach doesn’t work. Instead of minimising risk, complex contracts slow down deals, create misunderstanding and hurt the business relationship.

There’s now plenty of research showing the benefits of a well-designed contract. You can get to signature faster, negotiate better terms, set a positive tone for the relationship and increase contract compliance.

Writing in plain English goes a long way to improving a contract. But there’s so much more you can do, like:

– Use bullet points instead of never-ending sentences.

– Put the contract sections in a logical order.

– Make sure there’s plenty of white space.

– For the love of all things good – stop using columns and size 8 font!

– Use tables, graphs and images to explain a concept clearly. Some companies are even writing entire contracts in cartoon.

Want to give your contracts a makeover? Give us a shout. It’s one of our favourite things to do.

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