A New Source of Ambiguity in References to Time?

My daughter invited me to go a comedy club. Killjoy that I am, I had never been to a comedy club before.

But my hermit tendencies aren’t what this blog post about. Instead, before the show, my daughter emailed me the following fine print from the ticket:

You must present the original credit card used to make this purchase at the venue’s box-office or point of entry up to one hour prior to the event or after the doors open (unless otherwise noted) in order to pick up your ticket(s).

Probably as a result of having been overexposed to my enthralling interests, my daughter is no slouch when it comes to semantic acuity. Regarding the quoted language, she said, “Does this mean … within 1 hour of the show starting? Or that you can’t pick up the tickets after 6:30?” (The show started at 7:30 p.m.)

I think she’s right, that if you state a point in time by saying up to X [unit(s) of time] before [event], it’s not clear whether the period for taking the action in question is measured backward from the event or forward up the the point in time.

This isn’t covered in MSCD, and I don’t recall seeing this kind of ambiguity in the wild. What do you think?

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.