Seven sixteenths of one inch… Maddox meets contract drafting

One of my favorite lines from Maddox is this:

Seven sixteenths of one inch: That’s the distance you’d have to move your pinky in order to not sound like an idiot. I know the burden of pressing shift to capitalize is a great one, but c’mon, you can do better than that. I used to type emails in caps like yours, but then I decided that I didn’t want a job mixing concrete.

I send this picture to almost everyone who sends me an email in ALL CAPS. I urge you to do the same.

So what does this have to do with contract drafting?

“Words formed with capital letters are monotonous rectangles that offer few distinctive shapes to catch the eye.” It is contrary to the rules of typography. (Credit: Legal Frontier)

Minor Wisdom has this take on it:

MANY LAWYERS THINK THAT THE BEST WAY TO EMPHASIZE A WRITTEN PASSAGE IS TO PUT IT IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. THESE LAWYERS ARE MISGUIDED. WRITING A PASSAGE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS MAKES IT HARDER TO READ. ALSO IT MAKES THE READERS UNCOMFORTABLE; THEY GET THE FEELING THAT THE WRITER IS SHOUTING AT THEM. AND NO ONE LIKES TO BE SHOUTED AT.

IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE THE PRECEDING PARAGRAPH, ASK YOURSELF HOW MUCH YOU ARE ENJOYING READING THIS POST. ASK YOURSELF WHETHER THIS POST LOOKS BETTER OR WORSE THAN THE OTHER POSTS ON THIS BLOG. ASK YOURSELF WHETHER THIS POST IS EASIER TO READ OR HARDER TO READ THAN THE OTHER POSTS. (source)

If you still don’t believe, trust the experts:

If you want to go to the wellspring of contract drafting knowledge, Adams Drafting is the shiznit. In this post, he debunks the fairy tale that some laws require the use of all caps, and gives us some great dicta on the subject.

And Amercian General Finance, Inc. v. Bassett, 285 F.3d 882 (9th Cir. 2002), debunked the notion that text needs to be in all caps to be conspicuous. I particularly like this sentence from that case: “Lawyers who think their caps lock keys are instant ‘make conspicuous’ buttons are deluded.”

So, you can listen to Adams, the “experts,” the 9th Circuit, or anyone else you want. But, I still think that Maddox articulates the point best:


Seven sixteenths of one inch: That’s the distance you’d have to move your pinky in order to not sound like an idiot.

2 Responses to Seven sixteenths of one inch… Maddox meets contract drafting

  1. Windypundit says:

    I’ve been wondering about that. It seems that every contract I’ve ever seen has its WARRANTY DISCLAIMER IN UPPER CASE. I’d always assumed that for some reason warranty disclaimers have to be emphasized and some court somewhere ruled that ALL CAPS was an acceptable form of emphasis so now everybody does it that way because it’s got a safe precedent.

  2. Ken says:

    The law actually encourages this behavior in some circumstances. For instance, under California law parties wishing to waive both known and unknown claims in a settlement agreement must quote the relevant statute in capital letters in the middle of the agreement.

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