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A short guide to drafting contracts

If you run a business, there's no way to avoid them; business contracts are just a part of the deal. And, as annoying as they can be, a well-written contract can be the difference between losing your business and staying afloat. It may be the only thing protecting you and your business from a range of potential threats.

It's always a good idea to have an attorney draft your contracts, but it's not something you have to do every time you enter into a contract, so if you choose to do it yourself, here are some tips that will save you time and trouble:

  • Make sure the document is entitled "Contract" so its intent is indisputable.
  • Identify all parties in the first paragraph and triple check every name and address.
  • Any time it's possible use plain language; complicated technical jargon, ambiguous clauses or "legalese" can kill clarity.
  • Don't leave anything to chance. Even if a particular contingency seems far fetched, you'll be better covered by including it.
  • Include definitions for anything technical or things that could be interpreted two ways.
  • All parties involved should initial every page so no one can claim they didn't see every bit of the contract.
  • Sign in colored ink so you can tell originals from photocopies.

These tips constitute a rudimentary overview. Drafting contracts is an exact science with a lot of ins and outs. And even with a meticulously-crafted contract, you can run into contract disputes. That's when it's a good idea to have an attorney step in. He or she can review the contract with a professional eye and may be able to help protect you and your business.

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