“In Accordance With” and “According To”

Reader Doug asked me about the difference, if any, between in accordance with and according to.

Garner’s Modern American Usage says that according to means (1) “depending on”; (2) “as explained or reported by (a person)”; or (3) “in accordance with.” It’s used relatively often in contracts to convey the last of these meanings, as in “Any dispute must be resolved by arbitration according to the procedures stated in this section 12.10.” According to occurs in 240 contracts filed on the SEC’s EDGAR system in the past week.

By contrast, in accordance with doesn’t have alternative meanings. That’s why I use in accordance with instead of according to—readers have an easier time of it if they don’t have to select among alternative meanings, even if they can do so in a fraction of a second.

For what it’s worth, most drafters would appear to agree with me: in accordance with occurs in 990 contracts filed on the SEC’s EDGAR system in the past week.

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.