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Main Dictionary B

Boilerplate

A boilerplate is a standard chunk of text, code or procedure, which is possible to be copied and used multiple times in different situations with minimal alteration. Boilerplates are frequently used in formal and legal documentation, coding and other spheres that require regular use of large blocks of similar data. Instead of creating such information from a scratch, it’s allowable to use previously prepared examples and adapt them to current cases. Such a practice is time-sufficient and contributes to unification and consistency of documentation, although some disadvantages of doing so also exist.

Boilerplates are often found in contracts, agreements, conventions, terms and conditions, and other kinds of documentation, especially in those spheres that suggest processing large amounts of papers. An expression “boilerplate language” is used to describe generic passages in typical document forms.

The term “boilerplate” originates from a 19th century practice of using standard, uniform plates of steel for making steam boilers. The association of such plates with clichés often used by writers and correspondents was then made by newspaper editors, who started using the term in this sense. In the contract law sphere, the term “boilerplate” was introduced in the middle of the 20th century after the famous article criticizing boilerplates and fine prints often used in them for cheating the clients and dodging the laws.

Boilerplate essentials

A boilerplate is a piece of information that was prepared some time ago for a certain occasion and then exploited again for separate though similar situations. For example, a standard form contract prepared by a company for the first time is usually used later for further agreements with other parties, with only slight changes being added to the form to personalize it in each given situation.

Although some instances use the word “boilerplate” to denote something unoriginal or performed without effort, boilerplates in general are considered useful tools. When a company uses boilerplates, it saves time to spend it answering its customers’ needs or doing anything else which might bring profits instead of wasting time on recreating similar paper forms. Nowadays, almost all entities involved with contracts, documentation and presenting information in general use boilerplates in one form or another.

An important issue of a boilerplate is that the information presented in it is not a fixed unity, and it’s allowed to be updated, personified or individually adapted for every case given, which brings an additional layer of convenience.

Boilerplates are often structured and phrased in a way that excludes a possibility of double interpretation, which is critically important for business documentation. This way of designing also reduces variations, thus reinforcing the use of the same constructions over and over again. Despite it being less attractive from a literal point of view and less colloquial, such a form of organizing business texts is important to maintain clearness, consistency and avoid disputes. Constructions presented in boilerplates are usually specifically chosen to be hard to dispute. One more crucial feature of a boilerplate is that it’s usually rarely actually read by the second party involved in an agreement or other formal activity reflected in the boilerplate, so it gives a possibility to a boilerplate provider to induce the conditions more suitable for their party.

Boilerplate instances

As it has been stated above, a boilerplate may come in different forms. Although two typical incarnations of a boilerplate are a standard document form and a programming code, other instances are also widely spread, as boilerplates are practical and serve many purposes, so many industries and business spheres have implemented the use of such tools in their working processes. 

Nowadays, the most popular spheres, in which boilerplates are utilized, include the following:

  • Programming, in which short preprepared snippets of code are used to create larger constructs, or a generic structure is changed to some degree to meet certain laws;
  • Contract law, in which standard forms are exceptionally common;
  • Marketing, in which a business is often required to accompany its promotional materials with necessary information on its activities, location, details, etc.;
  • PR and the media, which frequently use generic forms when answering to applications;  
  • Project management, in which a boilerplate often means a template for a project, or a structure previously used in former projects;
  • Sales, especially sales representatives working in accordance with a script, and so on.

Boilerplates Pros and Cons

Companies and public institutions all over the world often resort to using boilerplates because of a variety of reasons. The first and most important cause to use a boilerplate is that this practice is significantly time-saving in all of its variations, being that used in programming, or in marketing, or in a document. It aids in more effective use of time and resources of a company, thus adding to a company’s productivity and reducing a load of low-value work.

Another important advantage of boilerplates is that a corpus of standardized texts is a good way to reduce the amount of possible mistakes, as the texts are usually prepared in advance, checked and verified, and if all the initial steps were done correctly, no mistakes would appear with the further uses. Although there’s a possibility of making mistakes while altering boilerplates to apply it individually, such a system still generates fewer inaccuracies than a system of producing new texts each time. Boilerplates also prevent a company’s documents or significant pieces of information from being too diverse in style or having details contradicting each other.

At the same time, there are also some noteworthy disadvantages associated with a boilerplate.

Firstly, a boilerplate is generic in its nature, and if a company works with individual cases, carefully selecting and transforming the conditions and procedures in each given situation, then the use of boilerplates would be less sufficient. Altering a boilerplate for too long might mitigate the time-saving effect, hence making a boilerplate more of a hurdle than a time-saving tool. In other cases, the use of generic unchanged boilerplates might cause legal problems, if the information presented in them doesn’t correspond to reality.

One more disadvantage concerns only one party involved in the use of boilerplates, but it’s still a significant issue. As boilerplates are often considered typical and unimportant by some clients or customers, it’s a common practice for them to avoid careful reading of such segments in their contracts or other documents, which may lead to boilerplates containing terms and conditions clearly giving more advantages to one party only. Thus, it’s actually important to study all the information presented in a boilerplate and avoid signing anything without a thorough examination of all points reflected in the document.

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