The first thing you can do is to check your competitors' Terms. You can take the parts that are the most relevant for your website and business. Then, all you have to do is to adjust and rewrite them to suit your purposes. This is something you can do yourself, or hire a paralegal or a content writer who specializes in writing these types of documents. It goes without saying that the final version has to be plagiarism free. It is an absolute must that once you are done with the adaptation and rewriting work, you should run a plagiarism checker to make sure there are no such issues with your Terms. I recommend Copyscape for this particular action.
If your website and business are a bit more specific, then you have no other option than to build your Terms from the scratches. Again, this is something you can try to do on your own, or hire a pro to do it for you. Either way, there are a few points you should pay attention to. The following points you can use as a checklist to make sure all essential elements are included in your Terms.
One of the most common misconceptions about the Terms you use for your website is that they have to be a strictly formal legal document. This is simply not true. Why? Well, your website, your rules. You can do whatever you like with it. Of course, you will eventually suffer the consequences of your choices in this case. As a content writer, I have seen quite a few Terms that were extremely funny and creative. All the main points were there, but written in quite an unusual and a little bit an unorthodox way. Rest assured that these guys knew what they were doing. Just because you write your Terms in an informal way, it doesn't mean that you are less protected. This is actually a great way to motivate your website visitors and users to actually read your Terms. Who says that writing Terms is supposed to be a dull and boring activity? Right?
Who is who and what is what in your Terms?
Your website, business, all the products and services you provide are perfectly clear to you. However, you can't expect the same, unless not entirely, from your users. This is why, starting your Terms with a convenient "dictionary" is a good way to avoid any confusion and misinterpretation. You are free to explain who is who and what is what on your website in simple and understandable words. Who is a user? What it takes to become a member of your website or your services? Make sure that you don't have too many terms in your Terms' dictionary. Keep your terms list short and simple.
How your website works and what is its purpose?
This is the section where the Terms have to explain how your website functions and what is it all about. My word of advice is to use an opportunity to invite users to read and examine your Terms because this is in their best interest. There's no need to make threats like if you don't read these Terms then you can get in trouble. Just a kind reminder will do. Here's another word of advice regarding your Terms' structure. It is advisable to use numbers for your Terms, so you and your users can orientate quickly and easily. I'm obviously referring to your Terms' sections. Each should have different numbers associated with them. This was an extremely helpful thing for me when I had to deal with the inevitable corrections and revisions while working with my clients. For instance, it is much easier go to section 3.5. and fix this and that, than is to copy the entire section or instruct when to find it. Be patient with your Terms. I understand that is very boring and even ridiculous to explain obvious things. If you run an eCommerce website, do you really need to explain what it does? Well, you have to because you need to eliminate any possibility of complaints associated with it. Therefore, take your time in explaining what your website does for its visitors and users. Also, what are the specific purposes you are trying to achieve with it.
List of obligations
Your website has specific obligations toward its users and visitors. The same is to be applied to the other side. Your users have to comply with your rules and expectations in order to get all the things and use all the features as planned. How to make sure that you haven't left out some of the important obligations? Well, walk in your user's shoes for a moment. Go through your website just as an average visitor will eventually do. What do you expect to be done? What are the things you are forbidding? What are the obligations of your website you are committing yourself to fulfill in return?
Limitations of liability and warranties
This is the most brutal part of your terms. Why? Because you have to protect your website and business. Basically, you will refuse to accept responsibility for anything and everything that can possibly go wrong on your website. If you are thinking I'm exaggerating about this, then I strongly encourage you to check what Facebook, Apple, eBay, Google have to say about it with their lovely terms. Even if you are selling goods or providing services through your website, you have to limit your responsibility to the highest degree possible. As an average user, I was often confused and even frustrated with this no matter what and we don't accept any kind of responsibility policy of the most popular and widely used websites. Yet, this is something you should try to understand. Without these painful and merciless sections the entire World Wide Web could have collapsed in a matter of minutes. We wouldn't have enough lawyers on the planet to file all the potential lawsuits in these matters. Yet, try to use the friendly tone in these unpleasant matters as much as possible. Like, despite our best efforts we can't guarantee that this and that can happen blah blah. Trust me, no one will mind and your website will be safe from harm.
It is hard to believe how we pay little or no attention to these couple of lines that can either save you or put you in unimaginable trouble. Why? For some strange reason, we like to use fancy locations. Like any potential disputes are to be addressed to the courts in London and New York. Is this really necessary? You want for your website to look and feel as a part of the world. Maybe, you are embarrassed that you don't have an office in the Silicon Valley or somewhere else in California. But, here's the catch. Do you really plan to travel half across the globe or hire the most expensive lawyers in the world, if someone decides to sue you, and you recklessly chose the jurisdiction of the courts in London, for example? Your local court is your best choice. The closer - the better. Keep that in mind.
You are almost good to go with your Terms. In this section, all you have to do is not to forget about these things. Inform your website users that you can and will update the website itself and your Terms from time to time, but your obligation is not to inform them every time about these changes. Let them take care of this by checking your notes about potential updates. One more thing, you should put a note that you are allowed to do whatever you like with your Terms' section and your document will be still effective and obligatory at any given moment.