Now and then, I'm asked to sign public declarations, manifestos, or letters - material drafted by other people who ask if I'm prepared to sign up. Sometimes I add my name; sometimes I don't. The question arises as to when we should and should not sign such things, and my own answer is (usually) fairly simple: I'll sign something if I am in full agreement with it. General agreement is not enough, unless provision is made explicitly for general agreement that is subject to reservations. Even then, I might hesitate and decide against it. The trouble with signing something that you don't fully agree with is that you may be stuck with people thinking you hold those views ... stuck with it for the rest of your life. There's enough confusion about what I really think as it is; I believe it's best not to add to it.
All in all, then, I'm unlikely to sign something unless I agree with it completely (and not just when the document is interpreted in some recondite way). I need to feel that what I'm signing my name to is something that I really do agree with - and I agree with the sentiments expressed in the sense in which well-informed people are likely to take them. If the document is patently ambiguous, I'm going to hesitate to sign.
The moral is that your best chance of getting me to sign something is to write a screed that's very clear and simple, without too many tangential messages that you want to get across and certainly with no ambit claims. Ambit claims are for lawyers or industrial bodies like trade unions. They set the formal boundaries of a claim that is always intended to be negotiable. If I'm asked to sign something as an individual person, it is going to have to state what I seriously think or want, not a formal position that I'm proposing to negotiate back from.
I probably haven't always been consistent in following the above guidelines, but they seem like good ones and they represent the way I usually think. So please keep your claims (in the sense of demands and in the sense of assertions) simple and realistic if you want me to sign something you're writing.
But what if I do actually agree wholeheartedly with something that you want me to add my name to? Will I ever have good reasons to refuse to sign anyway? Probably. I can't rule it out. But what would they be?
I'm going to come back to this, dear readers, but what do you think? In what cases would you be unwilling to put your name, publicly, to a position that you actually agree with (and without any reservations or creative interpretations)? Inquiring minds want to know.