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— contributed to Physics Forum by Adrian Baker
Posted on 2017-Mar-01 at 19:16:21 by Phil
If you’ve been unlucky enough to have to read an End User License Agreement, license, guarantee, or warranty; you’ve probably noticed that the legalese in them involves A LOT OF SHOUTING. Well, actually, there’s an amazing amount of text in CAPITAL LETTERS.
THE FIRST PARTY OF THE FIRST PART, HEREAFTER REFERRED TO AS THE SECOND PARTY OF THE SECOND PART, DOES HEREBY CEASE AND DESIST ANY AND ALL MACHINATIONS TO DISASSEMBLE AND/OR DECOMPILE THE PRODUCT SOFTWARE…
Why are they shouting? What does this gain? It is well established that mixed case text is much easier and faster to read, and is comprehended better (fewer errors). People reading normal (lower and mixed case) text don’t disassemble words into individual letters and then figure out what words the letters comprise — they see the shapes (outlines) of the words, and match those shapes against their memories of many words. When words are ALL CAPS, they have to be disassembled into letters and then the words determined. This is much slower and more error prone. So, why do this?
Is the intent to emphasize certain passages? Are there better ways to do this? Granted, this material needs to be readable “as-is” without the use of a word processor, browser, or other aid. If printed on paper, all manner of text effects can be done, such as italicizing and bolding of selected text, boxing a section, changing colors, changing font sizes, etc. For something that may be read as softcopy, these things obviously can’t be done. However, is it possible to come up with easily read text that still gets the point across? is there a good compromise (using something like Markdown) to get the job done when the text is read directly, but still produce desired text effects if it should be printed? The formatting markup should not interfere with reading and understanding the source file.
Are there any legal precedents or actual laws stating how such documents have to be presented? That doesn’t mean that it actually makes sense to SHOUT, but the documents are just following the law (and yes, as some wise man once said, “the law is an ass.”).
Posted on 2022-Sep-23 at 08:24:00 by Phil
In this article the claim is made that CAPITALIZATION is (in many cases) required by law as a form of emphasis. Research has shown that, in fact, it’s no more readable or comprehensible than normal mixed case, but the laws are still on the books. Plus, it’s a long and hallowed tradition to write that way.
The article (on Stack Exchange’s Law substack) goes further into the reasoning behind the way that legal documents (especially contracts) are worded — the principal aim is to remove ambiguity, not to be clear and concise. The average reader may dispute the former, and it’s quite likely that quite a bit of ambiguity remains, despite these efforts. After all, what else would keep the Legal Profession in business, if everything was easy to understand and unambiguous?
Posted on 2022-Sep-23 at 11:50:00 by Phil
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