igNobel prize for paper on contract drafting

ignobelContract drafting hit the news this week. Well, something needs to distract us from repetitive national mourning. It was reported that an academic paper, written by researchers at MIT, had won an igNobel prize. These prizes are a satirical alternative to the well-known Nobel prizes. We should keep remembering that the latter are funded by the profits from the invention of dynamite.

The paper reported on research into why contracts are difficult to understand. IP Draughts doesn’t offer any prizes for guessing the conclusion: because they are badly drafted! More specifically, because of poor word choice and bad sentence construction, rather than because of their legal content. This is an over-simplification, but you get the idea.

Does the paper and its conclusion deserve to be ridiculed with an igNobel?

Is it ridiculous to do research on this subject? Or was the methodology a bit ridiculous? IP Draughts’ reaction on reading the paper is that it is a typical, hermetically-sealed academic paper – citing other academic papers (rather than practical work such as that of Ken Adams), and focused on the authors’ discipline with no reaching across to other disciplines such as law. The authors worked hard to reach conclusions that might be regarded as a statement of the bleedin’ obvious.

If the paper and its prize encourage greater public focus on why contracts are often drafted badly, they have done a good service. IP Draughts applauds the authors for collecting their prize in person.

1 Comment

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One response to “igNobel prize for paper on contract drafting

  1. vrkoven

    Maybe the problem is that the article is as impermeable as the prose it critiques? E.g.: “contracts contain startlingly high proportions of certain difficult-to-process features–including low-frequency jargon, center-embedded clauses (leading to long-distance syntactic dependencies), passive voice structures, and non-standard capitalization–relative to nine other baseline genres of written and spoken English.”

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