Conversational style is a writing style that differs from customary contract prose. Instead of being formal and impersonal, it makes a contract sound more like a conversation. Instead of calling the parties by their official names or their roles, let alone calling them “the party of the first part” and “the party of the second part”, it can call them “you” and “we” or “us”.
Contract readers can find conventional contract prose unfriendly and impersonal, even alienating. For some people, contract text seems to have been written by lawyers for lawyers. They may find that it is not intended for them, and so decide not to read. If contracts remain unread, unintentional non-compliance and loss of rights may follow. Despite your best intentions, if the contract makes your organization sound frightening or unfriendly, you may build mistrust and suspicion.
Conversational style has made its way to business-to-consumers and employment contracts, but it does not have to be limited to these; it can be used in commercial and public sector contracting as well. It is especially suitable in contexts where negotiations take place among people who are not lawyers familiar with conventional contract styles – for example, if one of the parties is an SME or a startup.
Conversation style can help make contracts look and feel more straightforward and business-friendly, and less like legal weapons. Most of today’s contracts are written in legal-speak. They all look and feel the same, with no personality or humor found in them. If your organization wants to portray an image of someone who speaks and listens like humans do, you may find that adopting a conversational contract writing style can make a major difference. It can help you frame your relationships and their terms so that you stand out from the crowd, in a good way.
© 2019 Stefania Passera, Helena Haapio, and WorldCC