How to Understand Terms and Conditions Without Reading Them

No one wants to spend the time to read lengthy Terms and Conditions. From a poll last week. 58% of you said that you will skip Terms and Conditions page when you are signing up for a service or install a new software and only 15% will read the T&C all the time or frequently. I can tell you from the time I spent in a previous career as a typesetter for a business forms printer that not many people do. The multiple typos I would find on existing printed Terms and Conditions told me that it was a necessary evil. It was important to include it, but not many people were going to take the time to read it.

These things can be very lengthy. When I would type them up, they could easily take me a few hours, and I'm known as a really quick typist. To proofread them took another couple of hours. This guarantees that not many people are reading them, other than people who are experts at legalese. There are even Facebook pages dedicated to people admitting that they click the box, but never read it. One of those has almost 75,000 fans.


However, by clicking that box saying that you understand the Terms and Conditions, you are still just as bound to abiding by them if you read them or didn't. This means the Terms and Conditions aren't there to read as much as they are there to hold you to something you would be willing to do.


In this world of business that is conducted online, the people placing the Terms and Conditions on their website or software probably aren't reading it either. Google shows over 20,000 Terms and Conditions generators out there to generate the wording and code to make it easier for business and websites to place it on their site or add it to their software package.

In lieu of being a speed-reader, the best way to know what you're agreeing to before you click that box is to skim the text. There is so much information contained within this text it's often laid out in outline form. It starts with roman numerals, and includes indents with capital letters, regular numbers, lowercase letters, etc.


Much of this is information you don't need to read. Looking at the above sample, you know who the buyer is. It's you. Why read the text explaining what it is? If you know what the word conspicuous means, there's no reason to read most of the next five paragraphs. Simply skim it to make sure they aren't applying a different meaning to it.


There are a few words you want to pay particular attention to while skimming, and perhaps read those areas a little more in depth. One of those words is liabilty. This pertains to how you will be held responsible for buying or using the software, app, or website. You want to be sure you know what you are agreeing to with this.


The other words you want to pay close attention to are "fees", "compensation", or anything else that translates into money going out. That's always my fear when downloading software. I'm always afraid that while it says it's free, I'll be expected to pay after a certain time or when I use it a certain way. Be absolutely clear with this wording to be sure you don't get stuck paying for something you don't want to.



If you need even more understanding being following a few key terms, there is software out there that will help you understand the Terms and Conditions of software. EULAlyzer is a Windows-based software that will tell you how safe the software you are about to install is, and also helps analyze that Terms and Conditions agreement highlighting the key phrases that you should pay particular interest to.

By skimming and ignoring portions of text that either don't pertain to you or are explanations of terms you already understand, and by knowing where to go for more help when you need it, you will be able to click that checkbox at the end with much more confidence. You can change hours of boring reading into minutes of skimming, skipping, and double-checking.

Laura Tucker
Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.

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