In plain English

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Legalese is everywhere. We are commonly asked to sign documents, terms of service agreements, for example, or insurance policies that are book length and incomprehensible.

The bottom line is that we rarely know exactly what we are getting for our money. Oftentimes, we sign these documents without a clear understanding, hoping for the best. But the best is as rare as an understandable contract. All we need to do to find out what this stuff really means is to try and make a call to customer support.

I have always tried to write clear, simple, understandable agreements. Spelling things out in a clear manner at the outset can save a lot of headaches later. Much of what is included in these agreements is the result of finding out the hard way the things that need to be included in a properly constructed contract.

For example, I never simply call for maple. I call out hard maple of “red leaf maple” or whatever I will be using. Some materials like cherry are only available in one species so it’s a little safer to simply say cherry.

I do the same for everything I can think of. Hardware is specified by brand. Things like shelf support systems are described. And, after all these years, I still get surprised now and then and my agreements get longer by another paragraph. But I always make sure that new paragraph is easy to understand!


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