Choosing Between Alternative Usages

Recently I received the following from longtime reader Jeff Wheeler:

Here’s a little timewaster of an article that nonetheless got me pondering a drafting question:

After pondering the relevance of weightier debates to this one, the author seems to conclude there’s no objectively correct answer or superior argument to be made for one pronunciation versus the other, and advises that we all calm down about it and be consistent in whatever our usage is.

This prompted me to consider the various seemingly-perennial debates in the contract-drafting community, and I realized I couldn’t think of a time in my years of reading your blog posts where you reached a similar conclusion. I’m not surprised or alarmed by this; I wasn’t able to think of any examples not addressed in your prior writings, either. Honestly, I’m more concerned I’ve overlooked or forgotten one or more that this approach would apply to. Do you know of any?

Jeff’s right. Some things about the look of a contract I can’t get worked up about. For example, whether you use Calibri or Segoe UI (see this post). Or whether you use single line spacing, multispace spacing at 1.08, or multispace spacing at 1.15 (see this post). Or whether you use words to express numbers through nine, instead of through ten, which is my preference.

But in terms of wording, invariably I find myself recommending one usage from among the alternatives. I expect that on a few occasions I declined to express a preference, but I can’t remember any offhand. Excuse me if I don’t hunt for instances of that—it would be time-consuming to do so, as I’ve considered hundreds of usages over the years.

Sometimes little distinguishes one usage from another, but that little is enough on which to base a choice. For example, see this 2009 post about hereby grants versus hereby grants to.

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.

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