Don’t Use “Mean” in Autonomous Definitions Just Because the Defined Term Is Plural

Each of the following extracts from EDGAR exhibits the same problem: For purposes of this Agreement, "Eligible Plan Assets" mean total Plan Assets (including assets invested in American Funds and other mutual funds or investment options approved for use in PlanPremier), excluding … "Moral Rights" mean any rights to claim authorship of or credit on an Assigned Inventions … For purpose of … [Read more...]

Why It’s Important to Police Your Defined Terms

I know only too well that if you draft a contract of any length and complexity, keeping track of the defined terms can be a challenge. It's easy to find yourself using terms you don't define, defining terms you don't use, and using different defined terms to convey the same meaning. Thanks to Cousin Joshua, I learned about Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Palm Beach Mall, LLC, 2013 WL 6511651 … [Read more...]

Putting the Defined-Term Parenthetical at the Beginning of an Integrated Definition?

I spotted an oddity in section 1(a) of the contract providing for Jeff Bezos's purchase of the Washington Post. Observe where the defined-term parenthetical is positioned (italics added): To the extent not already owned by the Post Subsidiaries, the Transactions shall include the transfer to the Purchaser or the Post Subsidiaries of any other assets primarily related to the Post Business (other … [Read more...]

Pomposity in Drafting, Part Deux: “The Executive”

As one of their assignments, students taking my course at Notre Dame Law School drafted an employment agreement. Necessarily, I prepared one too. I based it on something I had drafted a few years ago, for a redrafting project at another school. My version used the defined term the Executive, as that was the defined term used in the contract that formed the basis for that redrafting exercise. … [Read more...]

A Possible Exception to the Rule that You Put Autonomous Definitions in Alphabetical Order

Warning: The following is for serious defined-term geeks only. MSCD 6.18 says, "Put any set of autonomous definitions in alphabetical order." I'd like now to suggest an exception that could apply when two or more autonomous definitions are placed "on site" in their own subsection (as opposed to being placed with other autonomous definitions in a definition section). But at the end of this post … [Read more...]

Malpractice Claim Against Cadwalader: Defining What You Mean, Not What You Don’t Mean

A New York appellate court recently unanimously affirmed a judgment of $17.2 million against the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft in a legal malpractice action alleging that due to a drafting mistake by the law firm, its client had had to pay its investment advisor $10 million instead of $2 million in a dispute over fees earned in an acquisition. Red Zone LLC v. Cadwalader, Wickersham … [Read more...]


The inimitable A. Wright Burke, M. Phil., added to this recent post on the word anyone the following comment (here): People are entities! There are natural entities ("individuals") and artificial entities (e.g., corporations, khanates). People are "legal entities," too. So the question is whether "anyone" refers only to natural persons or also to artificial persons. ... If "anyone" is thought … [Read more...]

Do We Really Need the Defined Term “Contract”?

Last week I noticed this tweet by @BlakeReagan2: It has been a while since I've used contract as a defined term, so I grabbed the following examples at random from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's EDGAR system: "Contract" means all legally enforceable contracts, agreements, understandings, arrangements and commitments, … [Read more...]


A contract I'm reviewing contains, as appendix A, a definition section. But it's not referred to as a definition section. Instead, the heading is "Glossary of Terms." Here's how Wikipedia describes glossaries: A glossary, also known as a vocabulary, or clavis, is an alphabetical list of terms in a particular domain of knowledge with the definitions for those terms. Traditionally, a glossary … [Read more...]

Using Italics for Defined Terms?

A rogue comment by noted anarchist A. Wright Burke, M. Phil., in this post got commenters contemplating alternatives to using initial capitals to designate defined terms. In the process, Mark Anderson posted the following comment: A German: English legal translator recently asked a similar question on IP Draughts. As German nouns are capitalised, they though this was not a useful way of … [Read more...]

Can Visualizations Make It Easier to Understand Defined Terms?

Via @bradleybclark and this post on Legal Informatics Blog, I learned of a paper entitled "Software Tools for the Visualization of Definition Networks in Legal Contracts." It's by Michael Curtotti and Eric McCreath, both of Australian National University, and Srinivas Sridharan of the University of California, San Diego. Here's the abstract: This paper describes the development of prototype … [Read more...]

An Example of an Awkward Definition

A little birdy suggested that I should check out the definition of "Arbitrator" in section 12(a) of the agreement providing for Jeff Bezos's acquisition of the Washington Post. (For more about that contract, see this post.) Here's the sentence in question: If the Purchase Agreement is not executed within 60 days of the date hereof, the Seller and the Purchaser shall within 75 days of the date … [Read more...]

Kitchen-Sink Definitions

I'm not a fan of kitchen-sink definitions—definitions that include a grab-bag of items, not all of which belong together. Consider the following definition of "Claim," culled from the grand flea market that is EDGAR: "Claim" means all losses, claims, damages, penalties, judgments, liabilities and expenses of any kind (including, without limitation, reasonable and documented out-of-pocket costs … [Read more...]

Joshua Stein on Defined Terms

I'd made many new professional friends through A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, but never new family members. So recently I was delighted to receive an email from a reader who announced that not only did he "hugely appreciate" the book, he was also related to me—he was my second cousin once removed. More specifically, my reader's great-grandfather was Samuel Gordon, brother to my mother's … [Read more...]

Using “X” and “Y” to Refer to the Parties

Note use of the defined terms "X" and "Y" in the following, from the 2002 ISDA master agreement (discussed in this post): If a party is so required to deduct or withhold, then that party (“X”) will:— (1) promptly notify the other party (“Y”) of such requirement; (2) pay to the relevant authorities the full amount required to be deducted or withheld (including the full amount required to be … [Read more...]