A table of contents is a list of all the documents, sections, and clauses included in the contract.
Contract readers (but also writers) often need to get quickly an idea of what a contract comprises. They also need to know where a specific contractual topic is addressed: often different aspects of the same topics are covered in different clauses, or even in different annexes and appendices. If contract users cannot get a correct mental model of what the contract is about, how it is structured, and where to find the information they need, they risk overlooking key details. This is a risk during contract creation, review, editing, and implementation alike.
Table of contents make the overall structure of the contract visible to the reader, and provide a simple way to search and access its contents. Often contracts are often read in a non-linear fashion, as the users search for specific information to answer specific questions or accomplish specific tasks: table of contents are a common solution to support this way of searching for and accessing information.
By making the information architecture of the contract visible, a table of contents can also help writers to organize their contracts more logically. For example, if you are able to notice that thematically-related topics are scattered all over the contract, you have a chance to reorganize the document and group them more coherently. Moreover, a table of contents can be used as an outline or checklist to ensure that all key points have been covered and have survived all rounds of editing and revision.
© 2019 Stefania Passera, Helena Haapio, and WorldCC
Table of content of a product supply contract.
© 2016 Stefania Passera. Used with permission.
Table of contents of a framework agreement for processing services. The table of contents includes all contract documents. Icons and color-coding are used to signal recurring topics across documents.
© 2011 Stefania Passera. Used with permission.
Telstra's dealership agreement features a clickable quick access table of contents, where each section is identified by an icon.
Source: Telstra contract re-design finalist in Clear Communication Award
© 2019 Telstra Corporation Limited. Used with permission.
Courtesy of Verity White.
Have you used tables of contents in your contracts? You can contribute to the Library by sharing an example.