NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

On the Writing and the Interpretation of Contracts

Steven Shavell

NBER Working Paper No. 10094
Issued in November 2003
NBER Program(s):   LE

The major theme of this article is that the interpretation of contracts -- their possible amplification, correction, and modification by adjudicators -- is in the interests of contracting parties. The general reasons are (a) that interpretation may improve on otherwise imperfect contracts; and (b) that the prospect of interpretation allows parties to write simpler contracts and thus to conserve on contracting effort. A method of interpretation is defined as a function whose argument is the written contract and whose value is another contract, the interpreted contract, which is what actually governs the parties' joint enterprise. It is shown that interpretation is superior to enforcement of contracts as written, and the optimal method of interpretation is analyzed.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w10094

Published: Shavell, Steven. "On The Writing and The Interpretation Of Contracts," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, 2006, v22(2,Oct), 289-314.

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