Tips for writing legal copy: from terms & conditions to GDPR

Written by Helen Selby

Lawyers tell us that terms and conditions are important. So why do we all find them boring? Frankly, it's because they are. The same goes for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) policy content. But is this kind of ‘dull’ copy beyond help? Not quite. 

While your legal department will get twitchy if you start rewriting too much, there are ways you can inject brand personality and most importantly human warmth into T&Cs and GDPR copy.

Please note

We’ve shared a few examples in this blog article, with pasted text and links to sites rather than screenshots. This isn’t because we’re lazy. It’s because screenshotting them is generally against the T&Cs… 

Write a friendly introduction

A succinct intro to your T&Cs and GDPR policy can really help set the tone. Avoid the temptation to be too frivolous or, worse, flippant. The idea is to sound human rather than robotic, without undermining the importance of your T&Cs.

Virgin Media achieve this perfectly. Their intro simply states:

Legal stuff

Looking for our terms and conditions? Well you've come to the right place. We've set it all in black and white.

It’s clear, straight to the point, and said with their trademark smile. And, including ‘terms and conditions’ in the intro will help guide any users searching for them to the right page giving them the freedom to use language more in-line with their tone of voice in the main heading. 

Simplify where possible

It pays to be direct with your audience, especially when you’re delivering complex information. The wording of your legal copy can’t always be changed, but using plain language where you can will go a long way towards making users feel welcome.

Facebook do a great job of this. The intro to their Terms of Service is quite long, but it clearly outlines who they are, how they operate, and what they do with your data. This is all before they get into the full nitty gritty which is also written extremely clearly. Notice their use of bold headers to guide the user throughout the copy too. User-friendly content at its best. Speaking of users… 

Keep your audience in mind

They don’t ask for much. Just to understand whatever terms they’re about to agree to without spending hours of their life deciphering them. Keeping a picture of your audience in mind can really help when you’re putting this sort of content together. 

Think about how your users will scroll through the content. Could you help them by highlighting key points with bold headers, as per the Facebook example, and this privacy policy from Sainsbury’s? Could you cut out repetitive copy? Or replace descriptive sentences with something more concise? 

Three key takeaways

We’ve boiled down all of this advice into something a little more digestible: 

  • Remember, it doesn’t take much to give formal legal text a touch of humanity. 
  • Let your readers know what’s coming, and that you’re aware it’s going to be boring. 
  • Get your tone of voice into some of the copy.

Do all of this, and even the most convoluted legal copy will benefit.

Need a hand with any of the above? Get in touch.