An Unlikely Lesson in Ambiguity of the Part Versus the Whole

Here’s something I tweeted today:

And here’s the tweet that followed it:

These tweets offers two lessons. First, omit a conjunction and you risk ending up in a fight over whether it should be and or or.

Second (and more plausibly), if you use just and or just or in this context, you could still end up in a fight. I used and; the promisor could argue that he or she is at liberty to do one or more of the prohibited actions, just not all of them. That meaning would seem unlikely, but it’s a stick the promisor could use to beat the other party. Using shall not do one or more of the following to introduce the list would prevent the promisor from making that argument.

For my definitive analysis of this, go here.

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.