Model Statement of Style

For any organization that wants to gain control of the drafting process, a necessary first step is to have the language and layout of your contracts comply with a “house style” for contract drafting.

Implementing a house style requires that you (1) adopt a style guide for your contract drafting and (2) require that those drafting your contracts observe the style guide.

Any kind of writing benefits from use of a style guide. Given that contract prose is so limited and stylized, and given that the stakes are so high, it’s ridiculous that contract drafters have for so long done without style guides. That by itself is sufficient to explain the problems that afflict traditional contract language.

Some organizations have told Ken Adams that they’ve prepared their own style guides from scratch. The examples of such style guides that Ken has seen are around twenty pages long and as such aren’t up to the task. There’s a reason A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting is over 500 pages long—you can’t cover the territory in twenty pages.

So Ken recommends that rather than creating your own style guide from scratch, you instead adjust and supplement as necessary his model “statement of style for contract drafting” (go here for a copy, in Word), then adopt that. The statement of style allows an organization to say that it’s adopting the recommendations of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting regarding contract language, explain why, and address some related issues. (This document is called a “statement of style” rather than a “style guide” because it doesn’t itself go into significant detail.) The statement of style assumes that it’s being adopted by a company, but it would be a simple matter to revise it to address the needs of a law firm.

But adopting a style guide isn’t enough. You’d also need to train your personnel how to draft consistent with the style guide, and you’d need to redraft your templates so that they’re consistent with the style guide. To be sure, that requires some resources, but in the bigger obstacle by far is institutional inertia.

For a general discussion of what’s required for a company to put its contract process on an efficient footing, see this article by Ken Adams.