“Forever” in Release Language

Release language usually consists of a slurry of redundancy. In this 2009 post on AdamsDrafting I considered a standard component of release language, irrevocably release. Here’s what I said:

Once you release something, it’s gone, without any way for you to claw it back. So having a party irrevocably release something does nothing other than add a surplus and potentially confusing word to what would otherwise be clear language.

Let’s now consider another standard component of release language, forever discharges.

Let’s get the discharges bit out of the way. It’s crassly redundant—it adds nothing to release. (In fact, let’s forget all about discharges—in the rest of this post I’ll use release.) Let’s move on to the more interesting element, forever.

To release something, you use language of performance—hereby releases. It consists of a one-time action. It doesn’t occur forever—the notion of claims being endlessly released is a ludicrous one.

If you reverse the order of the words—releases forever rather forever releases—you get a better sense of the meaning forever is intended to convey. The idea is that a release is forever; whoever is doing the releasing can’t change their mind.

But that’s the same as the meaning expressed by adding irrevocably to release language, so it’s just as redundant. Nothing in the notion of release suggests that you can elect to undo a release. If you think otherwise, you might as well add forever after terminates. And after purchases.

So I say the heck with both irrevocably and forever. Just say hereby releases.

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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