Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m committed to drafting contracts in standard English—English as spoken and written by the average educated native English speaker.

But sometimes, nothing can take the place of that olde-worlde lingo. An important example of that is forsooth, meaning “in truth,” “indeed.”

It’s all well and good to think in terms of articulating the intent of the parties clearly and concisely. But the parties could be committed to a given contract arrangement with varying degrees of seriousness, from “We’re just going through the motions” to “You’ll have to prise this contract right from my cold, dead hands!”

To make it clear that you’re towards the committed end of the scale—between 9 and 9.25 on a scale of ten—I recommend you use forsooth.

Here’s an example that I plucked from the Securities and Exchange System’s EDGAR system:

Syzygyzics shall forsooth use Most Bestest Efforts to achieve the Sales Targets. For purposes of this Agreement, “Most Bestest Efforts” shall mean the efforts that a reasonable person would use, if that person were Superman, son of Jor-El.

The value of forsooth is enhanced if you use it in combination with other comparable words—sometimes redundancy is, well, not redundant. Here’s an example:

Verily and forsooth, the Company doth represent, warrant, covenant, agree, pledge, and vow as follows, on the understanding that the verbs just used will have all sorts of cryptic implications regarding remedies that couldn’t possibly have been intended by the parties:

And if for purposes of introducing a set of recitals witnesseth is too modern for you, try forsooth. In all capitals, of course; and I recommend a space between each letter, with each letter underlined, but not the spaces.

F O R S O O T H:

All this might seem inconsistent with my usual advice. But you know how I routinely pooh-pooh the “magic words” approach to drafting? Well, I’ve been assured that forsooth is a magic word. No, I really mean magic!

Come to think of it, lots of contract language is magic. We shovel it into new drafts from our heap of recycled contract language, and we don’t understand the point of half of it, but it works great anyway!

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.

5 thoughts on ““Forsooth””

  1. Ken,

    I often agree with you, and even when I don't, I can at least usually see the point in your arguments (e.g., I prefer "will," but I understand your point on "shall"). But you've really lost me with this "forsooth" nonsense. I hope that this does not represent a new direction for you and this blog.

    I fail to see the point in modernizing the perfectly good Middle English word "forsoth" by dropping the second "o." It's just modernity for modernity's sake. I, for one, will continue to use "forsoth" in all of my contracts, and will resist this silly rush to change the English language for the sake of change itself.

  2. I really like “Most Bestest Efforts”. I may borrow that one, to suggest as an alternative when opposing counsel insist on "Highest and Best Efforts" or some other nonsense.

  3. Fie upon thee, varlet! Mine post witnesseth that methinks I dishanker thy droll draftery on archaisms, caitiff.

    Happy April 1 to you, too.

  4. I forsooth love this post! I am not sure that I will be adding it to my contracting lexicon, but "most bestest efforts" is now going to the top of my list for terms to use frequently.

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

  5. Perhaps we can incoroporate forsooth into modern slang:
    Instead of "for real" we can use "for forsooth"

    Never saw the word forsooth until today. Decent April fools joke, but your second example was too clearly a giveaway, for forsooth.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.