How to formulate your Q&A effectively

Asking the right questions and providing the right predefined answers in your questionnaire (Q&A) are crucial for contract automation. Formulating your Q&A poorly may confuse or annoy users. Repeated and redundant phrasing can be tiresome. Providing lots of explanations via information icons (tooltips) can be off-putting and cause users to ignore them. It is important to keep the user engaged and make completing a questionnaire as easy and straightforward as possible. This guide will help you formulate your Q&A effectively.

As a general note, when creating new questions it is important that the tag names are meaningful. Doing so enables a quick and smooth integration with CLM, other contract creation templates and external applications. Never use tag names that either only incorporate a default answer or are so generic as to be indistinguishable from other tag names, such as [edit.30 days] or [edit.Number of days] (rather than [edit.Milestone 2 Term for delivery], for example), or [date.Date] (rather than [date.First delivery date], for example).

 

A. GENERAL Q&A DRAFTING PRINCIPLES #

1. Formulate concisely
Keep it short! A full context is in the WYSIWYG editor. Each question should be formulated as concisely as possible.

a. The question’s phrasing should lead the user into a concrete answer.
b. Formulate the sentence such that it reads from a known context into the main message, with the key information as much as possible in the back-end of the question. If the most important information is provided halfway through the sentence (instead of at the end), the reader may miss the importance of it or even the entire point.

2. Use plain language
Do not use formal language or legalese. Avoid legal terms of art, alternatively, explain them (concisely) in an info icon (explanatory note).

3. Be consistent
Be consistent across the entire template’s Q&A, and as much as possible across all other templates.

4. Using defined terms (not)
Generally, do not capitalise a word or first character. Q&A-questions and answers should refer to parties, products, seller, etc. in lower case (not Parties, Products, Seller), except if the customer instructs otherwise or if it clearly improves the interpretation of the Q&A-question.

For example: in case of a contract clause addressing the improvement of the lead time of a product, the question could be: “Will the supplier be obliged to continuously improve the product’s lead time?” (Note: “supplier”, “product” and “lead time” are in lower case).

5. Using numbers
The use of numbers in a Q&A may deviate from the principles applied through the contract drafting conventions. Generally, numbers one through ten should be written in full, and higher numbers should be in numerals (e.g. 12, 30). If multiple consecutive numbers are proposed, be consistent regarding all the numbers (whether you choose to write them as numbers or in full – e.g. not Seven, 12, 30).

 

B. TERMINOLOGY USED IN THE Q&A (ENGLISH) #

1. Avoid using words of politeness (e.g. Please…).

2. Find the best verb
Verbs triggering user action must be used consistently for the required action:

  • Enter (to prompt for inserting data, a value)
  • Select (to select a radiobutton or dropdown option)
  • Tick (to tick or untick a Q&A-checkbox)

3. Use ‘will’ instead of ‘shall’ in all cases, regardless of the text in the contract.

 

C. FORMULATING Q&A QUESTIONS #

1. Understand what you do
Read the surrounding contract clause to capture the correct terminology (e.g. verbs and nouns to be used).

2. Grammar
Every Q&A-question must begin with a capital and end with a punctuation mark (normally a colon or a question mark). Some exceptions may apply for certain languages. For example, in French the punctuation mark is preceded by a space.

3. SVO
Every sentence must have a subject and a predicate. The predicate may appear in the choice question’s answers (which means that the sentence is completed by the Q&A-answers, and in such case, each answer must be the final word or phrase of the question).

4. Repeated, related and series of Q&A-questions
If a Q&A-question has a follow-up question, it is a good idea to add a suspension point (“…”) to the relevant Q&A-answer option (e.g. Other…), and precede the follow-up Q&A-question by a suspension point (the three dots … suggesting continuity)…

…and a suspension point must always be closed up with the character (no space in between).

If there is a repetition or a series of (related) questions, a systematic short ‘question’ is preferred over a grammatically correct formulation. For example:

  • Seller – contact person:
  • Seller – e-mail address:
  • Seller – phone number:
  • Purchaser – contact person:
  • Purchaser – e-mail address:
  • Purchaser – phone number:

 

D. Q&A ANSWERS #

Formulation of Q&A answers
1. All choice-answers (as they appear in the Q&A) must start with a capital and must not end with a semicolon or full stop.

Important: the actual contract text to be inserted by virtue of a choice made must be as the underlying template requires!

2. Q&A-answers must be concise, leaving out all unnecessary details.

Note: any details can be inserted in the info-icon (explanatory note), and the WYSIWYG editor shows appropriate nuance and detail.

3. A choice answer-option should not start with a numeral (e.g. avoid 1, 2, 30, 45) unless this cannot be avoided.

 

Default answers
1. Default answers must be consistent with the formulated text in the Agreement.

2. Choice questions must be given a default answer as much as possible.

3. The default choice-answer should be the first-listed answer option.

Note: this may reverse a consistent order of Q&A answer options: sometimes Yes > No, sometimes No > Yes. In such case, to avoid confusion a consistent order of Yes > No (or the other way around) may be preferred.

4. Using units of measurement in answer fields
Whether to use a unit of measurement (e.g.  days, months, kg, EUR, USD, €, $) as part of the answer in the default answer field depends on whether (if only at some point in the future) the Weagree Wizard (and this Q&A-answer) is likely to be used in a CLM, an ERP or an external application. For example, an ERP such as SAP or Oracle may define a termination notice period merely as “30” and if the questionnaire requires an end-user to enter “30 days” it would be impossible to match the Weagree Wizard data to SAP.

a. If the Q&A-entered data will be or are likely to be used in automated systems, the entered value must strictly comply with a certain data format: in the dialogue where the Q&A is formulated, change the Value type from “Any text or character (string)” into “Numbers, no decimals (integer)” or “Numbers allowing decimals”. It forces the end-user to enter a value without commas or full stops (as appropriate, depending on the culture/language of the template).
b. If not, insert the required unit of measurement in the answer field to avoid confusion (e.g. [__] kg, EUR [_____], USD [_____], [__] days, [__] months).

Note: in order to improve consistency, if a numeral of 1 to 99 is required, use two underscores; if any numeral or words may be entered, always use five underscores.

 

E. OTHER Q&A ELEMENTS #

1. Explanatory notes
An explanatory note should be included only when relevant, and always be concise: the WYSIWYG editor already provides context. An explanatory note may clarify the question, provide guidance for answering or (alternative) answers.

The explanatory note must not end with a full stop (but sentences preceding the final one in an explanatory note should end with a full stop, of course).

If an answer to the Q&A may potentially lead to a violation of the law (e.g. competition law), use an alert notice. An additional explanation may be helpful, starting with an all-caps “WARNING” or “IMPORTANT”.

2. Attention notices
Use attention notices sparingly. They can be used to:

  • alert the end-user to important information (e.g. Important: selecting yes may result in a violation of competition laws),
  • refer the end-user to advice (e.g. In case of doubt, contact the Tax department), or
  • avoid irritation or confusion in case a certain data format is required (e.g. if an amount may not contain thousands separators – so the input would read 1000000 instead of 1,000,000, for instance – or a percentage sign: Enter the percentage in numbers only, without the % percentage sign).

3. Authorisation level
Leave the authorisation level indicator of Q&A-questions or Q&A-answers unchanged, unless you specifically wish to filter them out for certain end-users.

4. If unanswered field
Always enter a value in the If unanswered field.

The value may be a blob (●) by using the tag ( [[*]]) or an instruction as to what has to be entered (e.g. [ENTER THE PURCHASE PRICE]). Often, the accompanying details of the if unanswered answer text will be the same as the default answer, except that the underscores must be replaced by the blob tag between square brackets (e.g. [[*]] kg, EUR [[*]], USD [[*]], [[*]] days, [[*]] months). If the customer prefers not to provide for default answers, the if unanswered field should nonetheless be filled.

 

F. MISCELLANEOUS Q&A-OPTIONS #

1. Always tick the option Use answer name (not the answer text). Only very exceptionally, the answer’s phrasing is better when using the text that is inserted by the answer option (in which case the option must be unticked).

2. Where possible, in global questions, extend the answers that directly answer an implied (second) question. For example:

Kb-Contract-Lifecycle-Management-Ca-Formulate-Your-Qa-1

 

G. TEMPLATE CORRECTION POLICY #

Textual corrections should be made in accordance with your contract drafting conventions (if any).

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