“With Respect To” and the Alternatives: Cast Your Vote Now!

In this post from a few days ago, you’ll see that some tenacious readers and I have been going at it hammer and tongs, debating what (if anything) to use instead of with respect to in various contexts.

Everyone seems to agree that in most contexts one can be more economical than with respect to. So our debate has focused on a subset of uses of the phrase. If that debate seems a little inconclusive, that’s because whether you use with respect to or something else in that context doesn’t really matter. Nothing is at stake, other than very modest degrees of fluency. Heck, I’ve used with respect to for years, and I can’t say that I feel covered in ignominy.

But a guy’s gotta decide what usages to employ in the context at issue, so in an appeal to the demos, I invite you to vote in the poll below. Heck, you can even write in other choices, but please give it some thought before doing so.

I can’t promise that the result will be binding!

Posted in Selected Usages | 1 Comment

  • http://batman-news.com Chris Carlisle

    I apologize for being late to the conversation, and maybe this isn’t the right thread, but I thought someone should point out that the reason people have a tendency to resort to awkward idiomatic phrases like “with respect to” in this context is that the idea it seeks to convey, while simple, is too metalinguistic to be served intuitively by an ordinary preposition. The function of these phrases is simply to notify the reader that a term is being defined by reference to (and will presumably only be used with) some variable, which is often another defined term. So, for example, “Affiliate” is defined so that it will only make sense when referred to as the Affiliate of some Person.

    I find that the problem of coming up with some separate word of phrase to convey this idea is only created by a commitment to using the format of “‘[Defined Term]‘ means [whatever]” for all definitions. I’ve begun referring to the defined term in the same manner it will be used in the rest of the contract when defining it; for example “An ‘Affiliate’ of a Person is any other Person that . . . “. I realize structuring the definition thus violates MSCD principles for defined terms, but I feel that it’s the most natural way of conveying the notion of a definied term that only exists in relation to a variable, and it’s also convenient for the sake of consistency to introduce how the definied term will be referred to in relation to that variable, since it may be idiomatic.
    I don’t think this issue is of tremendous significance in most contexts, though; it will be pretty obvious in a definition what’s going on with the variable. It’s probably even possible to omit the preliminary reference to the variable entirely, as in one of the examples given in the comments in the prior thread (“‘Prospectus’ means a prospectus that . . .”) and let the reader infer that the definition exists only in relation to the variable. Most of the confusion I can envision would arise from how the defined term is connected with the variable in the rest of the contract, especially if there are multiple variables to which the defined term refers.