This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
While the growth of our law has been steadily obliterating the once important distinction between the formal and the simple contract, a new classification of simple written contracts has developed. Simple written contracts are to be divided into three classes: (1) Contracts which are in writing, but which neither need to be in writing nor to be proven by writing; (2) contracts which do not need to be in writing, but must be proven by writing; and (3) contracts which must be in writing. This classification is not one of grade or rank of the various kinds of contract. They are all of the same rank, being all simple contracts, nor is the difference between them in the manner of execution. These three classes of contracts present many resemblances and but few differences in questions arising out of the material on which and with which the contracts are to be written, the method and form of signature, and delivery. The great distinction between these classes of contracts arises on the question of what in law can constitute the contract, for the purpose of determining the terms thereof. They differ from one other upon the question whether part of the contract may be written and part oral, or whether the oral agreement of persons to a written contract may make them parties to such contract without signing it. The first of these classes of contracts to be discussed will be those contracts which the parties have actually put in writing but which are not required by law either to be in writing or to be proved by writing. If the contract is one which is in whole or in part in writing, but is not required to be proven by a writing, or to be in writing, three classes of questions generally arise. (1) Under the facts, has a contract been entered into, and if so who are the parties thereto; (2) to what extent is extrinsic evidence admissible to show the intention of the parties; (3) under which clause of the statute of limitations does the contract in question come. For convenience and economy of space contracts which are required to be in writing, such as negotiable instruments, and contracts which are in writing but are not required either to be in writing or to be proved by writing, will be discussed in this chapter as far as questions of execution and delivery are concerned. Contracts required to be proved by writing are discussed elsewhere.1