In an economic system mostly governed by contract, parties may not only make the kinds of deals they wish but may make them in any form they wish—with some significant exceptions. The most significant issue of form in contract law is whether the contract must be written or may be oral and still be enforceable. The question can be answered by paying close attention to the Statute of Frauds and court decisions interpreting it. In general, as we have seen, the following types of contracts must be in writing: interests in real property, promises to pay the debt of another, certain agreements of executors and administrators, performances that cannot be completed within one year, sale of goods for $500 or more, and sale of securities. There are exceptions to all these rules.
Another significant rule that permeates contract law is the parol evidence rule: prior statements, agreements, or promises, whether oral or written, made during the negotiation process are often discharged by a subsequent written agreement. No matter what you were promised before you signed on the dotted line, you are stuck if you sign an integrated agreement without the promise. Again, of course, exceptions lie in wait for the unwary: Is the agreement only partially integrated? Are there grounds to invalidate the entire agreement? Is the contract subject to an oral condition? Is a fact recited in the contract untrue?
Contracts are not always clear and straightforward. Often they are murky and ambiguous. Interpreting them when the parties disagree is for the courts. To aid them in the task, the courts over the years have developed a series of guidelines such as these: Does the agreement have a plain meaning on its face? If there is an ambiguity, against whom should it be construed? Are there usages of trade or courses of dealing or performance that would help explain the terms?
As a general rule
An exception to the UCC Statute of Frauds provision is
Rules that require certain contracts to be in writing are found in
The parol evidence rule
A merger clause