Fun with Search-and-Replace Glitches

Recently I read a contract that contained scattered search-and-replace glitches. In attempting to remove identifying information, someone had searched for one of the party-name defined terms and replaced it with something generic, with unintended consequences.

I can’t tell you the exact change they made, but it’s as if they had replaced Signa with Vendor and had created as a byproduct scattered instances of the nonwords “Vendorture” and “deVendorte”.

To avoid that sort of thing, make your search-and-replace case sensitive, so it picks up Signa and not signa. And then search for glitches caused by instances of “signature” with a capital “S”—in other words, search for Vendorture. You can use other strategies too.

I invite you to tell us about classic search-and-replace glitches you have encountered.

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.

10 thoughts on “Fun with Search-and-Replace Glitches”

  1. I have to ‘fess up to one in the employment contract we use with our own staff, which I discovered last week when we took on a new employee. Buried in one of the later clauses was this horror:

    “The Firm may [hold data about the employee] in order to …give references to future the Firms…”

    Previously the document started off saying “…give references to future employers…” but at some point a global change of “Employer” to “the Firm” had created this error. As you say, it can be avoided by making the search and replace case sensitive.

  2. Or perhaps, just choose the “Find whole words only” option, if your text editor has one. The most fool-proof one would be, of course, to have the text editor ask you before each replacement.

  3. Ken:

    The classic one is when an old form used the word “Contractor” to refer to one party, the form-owner wants to replace it with Supplier or Vendor, and they end up with “subSupplier” or “subVendor.”


  4. Okay, this will sound a little like old-drafter grumpiness. But after being highly embarrassed by just such a thing, I decided long ago that I should read every word in a contract before sending it out.

    In this case, I searched and replaced names. I did all the tricks, but missed one because one of the names was misspelled.) After reading though the contract, the client asked, “Who is this person and why do they get a share of my business?” I explained. The client basically said that for the money, the expected me to read every word. And I realized this is both a reasonable and common expectation.

    So I do it every time.


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