Clause summaries are short, plain language summaries placed next to the original clauses throughout the contract.
Sometimes contract readers just need to get the gist of what a contract or a clause is about. They may skim-read to identify key points and find answers to specific questions, and stop to read details only when they think they are relevant.
Some contract readers may have problems understanding what the contract or clause is about, or have no time to spend engaging with the content. When people don’t understand or expect that the reading experience will be effortful, they may stop reading altogether.
Sometimes contract writers face the challenge of having to write for more than one audience (lay VS. expert) or for more than one purpose (communication VS. compliance). How to preserve the technical, specialist details needed by some readers without alienating the others?
Clause summaries are useful when just one “version” of the contract or clause does not suffice in accommodating the different preferences and needs of different readers.
Often people do not read these documents at all, especially if they consider them too long or difficult – e.g., consumers “agreeing” to online terms, or employees or suppliers barely looking at the different policies their contracts say they must follow. Offering a summarized, simpler version increases the odds of them reading and knowing at least the most crucial information.
Clause summaries focus on the key points of the clauses and present them concisely and simply. Being presented alongside the “official” version of the clause, they accommodate the different information needs of different readers, giving to some the extra help they need to understand the content.
The clause-by-clause approach also affords many reading strategies. Some readers completely ignore the summaries, and others only read the summaries. Some read clauses and summaries, to verify their understanding and to be sure they didn’t miss anything. And some read just some of the summaries, when needed.
• Contract documents
• Contract appendices
• Contract guides and playbooks
• Training materials
• Requests for proposals
© 2019 Stefania Passera, Helena Haapio, and IACCM
Each clause is accompanied by a simple summary placed next to it.
© 2018 Buzzsumo Ltd. Used with permission.
Designer: Stefania Passera
Each sub-clause of this document is briefly summarized in plain language.
© 2018 Royal Dutch Shell plc. Used with permission.
Design: Rob Waller
Have you used clause summaries in your contracts? You can contribute to the Library by sharing an example.
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