A table is a way to arrange systematically facts and figures in clearly categorized rows and columns.
Dense, long texts make it difficult for the readers to discern key points and nuances of an issue. Contract readers often need to compare information and make correct choices based on these comparisons: for instance, they may need to understand how a provision applies to different actors or in different circumstances.
Typical use cases are situations where it is necessary to give order and structure to lists of items, each which may be further characterized by a number of attributes (e.g. clauses on required insurances types and limits, definition lists in agreements, detailed cookies and third-parties in privacy statements, intellectual property rights.)
Tables can also be used as the main document layout in highly-structured sections of a contract, for example, term sheets, technical appendices, or price lists.
Tables provide a way of structuring information that helps readers to skim and process a lot of information at a glance: tables can be read very rapidly. They also facilitate comparison and choice between different elements. Like flowcharts, tables also bring together information that may have been in different clauses, or on different pages or documents altogether.
© 2019 Stefania Passera.
The definition section in Telstra's dealership agreement is organized as an easy-to-skim table.
Source: Telstra contract re-design finalist in Clear Communication Award
© 2019 Telstra Corporation Limited. Used with permission.
Courtesy of Verity White.
These tables from DIMECC Consortium Agreement helps compare and contrast the intellectual property rights that different parties have in relation to the foreground and background information during a research project. DIMECC is an open-innovation community facilitating joint R&D between Finnish companies: access to IP is thus an important issue for its participating organizations.
The tables were originally placed close to the text of the foreground and background information clauses. In this example, they are shown stand-alone for concision's sake.
Source: Haapio & Passera – Contracts as interfaces: Exploring visual representation patterns in contract design
© 2016 DIMECC Ltd. Used with permission.
Designer: Stefania Passera
Have you used tables in your contracts? You can contribute to the Library by sharing an example.