Enumerated Clauses—When the Trunk Is Too Short for the Branch

It’s generally a bad sign when, barely after it begins, a sentence shifts into a set of enumerated clauses:

If (1) A, (2), B, or (3) C, then X.

Acme shall (1) A, (2) B, and (3) C.

In such sentences, the drafter is forcing the reader to make a connection between each enumerated clause and the stub beginning of the sentence. In the first example, it would be better to incorporate the stub into each of the enumerated conditional clauses. (It’s a separate question whether the conditional clauses should go after the matrix clause, then X; I mention that issue in MSCD 2.175.) In the second example, it would be better to create three separate sentences or find some way to expand the opening stub.

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.