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Legalese in a Contract: What You Need to Know

Contracts are a necessary part of conducting business. They outline the terms and conditions of an agreement between two parties and establish the legal obligations of both parties. While contracts can be written in simple and straightforward language, many are filled with legalese. This type of language is often difficult to understand and can cause confusion or misunderstandings. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at legalese in contracts and how to navigate it.

What is Legalese?

Legalese refers to the complex and often archaic language used in legal documents. It is characterized by long and convoluted sentences, Latin-based words, and specific legal terms that are not commonly used in everyday language. While legalese is intended to be precise and unambiguous, it can often be difficult to understand for anyone who is not a legal expert.

Why do Contracts Have Legalese?

Contracts often contain legalese because they are legally binding documents that must be interpreted accurately. Legal terms and language are precise and are intended to leave no room for interpretation or ambiguity. This is particularly important in contracts where the consequences of misunderstanding or misinterpreting a term or condition can be significant.

However, some legal experts argue that the use of legalese is unnecessary and can actually hinder the understanding of contracts. They suggest that contracts should be written in clear and concise language that is easy for everyone to understand.

How to Navigate Legalese in a Contract

If you are presented with a contract that contains legalese, there are a few things you can do to navigate it effectively:

1. Read the entire contract carefully: This may seem obvious, but it is important to read the entire contract carefully and ensure that you understand each term and condition.

2. Use a legal dictionary: If there are terms or phrases that you are unfamiliar with, use a legal dictionary to look up their definition.

3. Ask for clarification: If you are unsure about the meaning of a particular term or condition, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification from the other party or seek legal advice.

4. Request a plain language version: If possible, request a plain language version of the contract that removes legalese and is easier to understand.


Legalese is a common feature of contracts, but it can be difficult to understand for anyone who is not a legal expert. While it is important for contracts to be precise and unambiguous, the use of legalese can sometimes hinder understanding and cause confusion. By reading contracts carefully, using a legal dictionary, asking for clarification, and requesting a plain language version, you can navigate legalese effectively and ensure that you fully understand the terms and conditions of a contract.