Dear Dr. Boli: Whenever I install a new piece of software or sign up for something on the Web, I have to swear that I’ve read and agreed to twenty or thirty pages of legal language. My question is this: Why do the lawyers who write these agreements put so many paragraphs in all capital letters? I can’t stand to read all-caps text. It gives me a headache, so I always skip over it. But I’m worried that I may have become a serial perjurer. [Name withheld by request, for obvious reasons.]
Dear Sir or Madam: Every readability study Dr. Boli knows of has shown that text in all capitals is much harder to read, and that readers usually skip over it. Lawyers are well aware of these studies, which is why they do you the kindness of printing the parts of the text that you need not bother to read in all capitals.
BY READING THE PARAGRAPH BELOW, YOU AGREE TO PAY H. ALBERTUS BOLI (HEREINAFTER REFERRED TO AS “THE PUBLISHER”) THE SUM OF ONE HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS PER DIEM FOR THE DURATION OF THE PERSISTENCE OF THIS ARTICLE ON THE WORLD-WIDE WEB. YOU AUTHORIZE THE PUBLISHER TO WITHDRAW THE SAID SUM DAILY FROM YOUR PRIMARY CHECKING ACCOUNT, AND YOU FURTHER AUTHORIZE THE PUBLISHER TO EMPLOY ALL REASONABLE DILIGENCE IN DETERMINING THE MOST DIRECT AND EFFECTUAL MEANS OF ACCOMPLISHING SAID WITHDRAWAL, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE INSTALLATION OF KEYLOGGING PROGRAMS AND HIDDEN VIDEO CAMERAS.
So whenever you see a paragraph in all capitals in one of those agreements, you may safely skip to the next paragraph, knowing that you have missed only a certain amount of legal boilerplate that will not materially affect your enjoyment of the product or service you have purchased. Dr. Boli hopes this explanation will alleviate your worries.