Consider Using Gerunds to Refer to a Kind of Provision (Or Why I Say “No-Soliciting Provision”)

OK, which do you like better:

  • nonsolicitation provision
  • no-soliciting provision

And here:

  • nondisparagement provision
  • no-disparaging provision

And here:

  • noncompetition provision
  • no-competing provision

Me, I like the second option in each.

The first option is a clunky abstract noun. Boo. The second is a gerund, basically a verb form acting as a noun. (More on gerunds here.) Less clunky. Yay.

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.

4 thoughts on “Consider Using Gerunds to Refer to a Kind of Provision (Or Why I Say “No-Soliciting Provision”)”

  1. Funny, my reaction, anent clunkiness (or is that clunking), is quite the opposite. Hate the avoidable hyphens.

  2. I’m with Vance. In addition to his reason, the attributive noun gives no hint, as the gerund does, that it’s the provision, rather than the party, that doesn’t solicit, disparage, or compete.

    The late Irving Younger favored changing the name “hearsay rule” to “no-hearsay rule” on the ground that names should be as informative as possible about the thing named.

    George Orwell favored gerunds over abstract nouns.

    “First they came for the verbs, and I said nothing because verbing weirds language. Then they arrival for the nouns, and I speech nothing because I no verbs.”

      • You are forcing summertime thinking, but such as it is, here goes:

        A bias for gerunds (verbal nouns) and gerundives (verbal adjectives) over abstract nouns and appositives is good because verbals are livelier and more direct.

        That bias is sometimes outweighed by the bias in favor of clarity where a verbal would blur meaning, as in the three examples in the post: is a ‘no-disparaging provision’ a provision that doesn’t disparage, the way a ‘leaking container’ is a container that leaks?

        Obviously not, but ‘nondisparagement provision’ keeps the issue from arising, even for a split second, in the reader’s mind, and is therefore preferable.

        So: bias toward writing with verbs and verbals, yay! With exceptions where clarity would suffer.

        I could always be wrong. ‘Loitering ordinance’ comes to mind. Not sure I’d ban it (the phrase, not the activity).

        Rodney, are you reading this? It’s winter Down Under, right?


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