Fine-Tuning LexCheck (Featuring “Promptly”)

In this post I reminded you all that I’m involved with LexCheck, the contract-checking software.

Part of the challenge in developing LexCheck has been determining what we tell the software to do.

For one thing, I’m acutely aware that there’s a difference between your electing to consult A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting and my blog posts and my in effect whispering in your ear as you’re reviewing a draft. In the former circumstance, you’re on my turf; in the latter, I’m on your turf, so LexCheck’s error messages can’t be as categorical as my published guidelines. It’s a matter of tone and emphasis, rather than compromise.

Also, there’s the question of whether LexCheck should flag an issue at all.

That brings us to promptly. Yes, it’s vague, and vagueness can result in dispute. You can end up in a fight over whether you did something promptly enough.

But promptly is an essential contract usage. If the future is sufficiently unclear, it might be that you can’t be precise—that promptly is the most sensible option.

So with LexCheck, we have a choice—have it flag promptly, at the risk of getting a bunch of “false positives,” or don’t flag it.

I’m inclined to flag it, with the error message simply reminding the user that it’s best to precise, if the circumstances allow it. If users find that message more annoying than helpful, they can turn it off for purposes of review of that document.

Any thoughts?

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 “Fine-Tuning LexCheck (Featuring “Promptly”)”

  1. I believe flagging it would be the best practice, even if doing so is just to serve as a reminder to the user to be precise. I know that I tend to gravitate to certain words without even thinking about them while drafting, and maybe a reminder would challenge me to think about the circumstances of using “promptly” when maybe I could be more precise, or conversely, would allow me to think about the justifications for using that language.

  2. I agree with your sentiment: that it ought be flagged with the reminder that a precise time frame is best if possible

  3. I’m also pro-flagging with the turn-off option, but it might be well to highlight the ‘promptly plus’ alternative, as in ‘promptly but no later than one hour after such an explosion’. Still leaves room for argument, but narrows the room. -Wright


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