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Credit-Card Agreements as Literature

Photo: Hemera Collection

Credit-card agreements seem to get longer and longer. Why? Planet Money explains some of the factors, which range from the necessity for less legalese to Congressional reforms.  Roberta Torian, a lawyer who writes credit-card contracts, explains how simpler language can make the agreements longer: “Because there are terms such as ‘herein.’ ‘As set forth herein.’ If I’m not going to use herein I have to say, ‘as set forth in this agreement.’ So I now have three words where I had one.”  Torian also explains that she has to state even obvious concepts: “Roberta says that if she doesn’t write ‘you have to pay us back,’ borrowers may try to get out of paying their bill.” Planet Money also interviews Susan Kleimann, a sort of “financial document cryptographer for the people.”  “If something looks difficult, people assume that it is difficult and they won’t read it,” says Kleimann.”Headings help. White space helps. Breaking things into lists helps.”