Don’t Use “Immediately” for Things that Happen Automatically

MSCD 12.258–277 discusses the distinction—or not—between immediately and promptly. Here’s another aspect of immediately—it’s often misused in connection with stuff that happens automatically.

Consider the following provision:

This agreement will terminate immediately upon Acme’s giving Widgetco notice of termination.

I’ve stricken the immediately because it suggests, inappropriately, that a moment of time, however short, passes between notice and termination. Instead, termination happens automatically on receipt of the notice.

This is an issue that I’ve focused on only recently. You may recall my November 9, 2008 post entitled “Choosing Among Alternative Categories of Contract Language.” Each of the two provisions that I discuss in that post originally contained an inappropriate immediately that I’ve now stricken.

Incidentally, one of the provisions in the November 9 post is the one above; it’s language of policy. The other provision is language of discretion. I’d still be interested in your thoughts as to which works best; if you have the urge, post a comment to the November 9 post. (Post here any comments on the inappropriate immediately.)

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.

3 thoughts on “Don’t Use “Immediately” for Things that Happen Automatically”

  1. I’m not sure I’m advocating the idea (in fact I believe I would not if pressed), but what does the collective think about substituting ‘automatically’ for the stricken ‘immediately’ in the above example?

    The only time I might want to use it is in a negotiation with an inveterate adverbizer, on the ground that adding ‘automatically’ won’t do any harm other than to my sense of ‘shorter is better.’ (I agree with Ken’s unstated presumption that ‘automatically’ is redundant in the context above.)

  2. I’ve seen “immediately” in cases where the distinction is made between termination events with a cure period and those without. I agree that it’s probably overkill, but it has never troubled me, mainly because I can’t see the argument that “immediately” implies any passage of time. In fact, standard definitions of the word suggest that no time should be deemed to pass. Ken, I always value your opinions, but I don’t see your logic in this case.


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