“In and To”

I received the following inquiry from longtime reader Vance Koven:

I’ve been trying to find someplace in MSCD or your blog where you address the couplet “in and to,” which usually dribbles out after “right, title and interest” in referring to, say, a claim to or a license of intellectual property. Came up empty, yet I was sure it was there somewhere. If not, is this something you’d consider addressing? While the phrase seems redundant, it’s not always easy to determine which of the words is the better one to use.

Here’s what I think about in and to.

Use of multiple prepositions might be prompted by use of multiple verbs, the urge being to match each verb with a proposition suited to it. That’s the theory, but the reality tends to be a bit messier. The example you offer provides an instance of that, as the three verbs are followed by two prepositions.

It might be that whoever uses the language in your example thinks that one of the prepositions matches two of the verbs. But I think it likelier that anyone using in and to is doing so simply because of the rhetorical flair that comes with redundancy.

That much is suggested by instances of in and to with a single verb. Here’s an example from a draft sent to me yesterday:

a separate license agreement with [Acme] that perpetually and irrevocably grants [Acme] all rights in and to [the widgets]

When in and to is used with a single verb, it might be that the drafter thinks that somehow each preposition offers something that the other doesn’t. But that’s preposterous. A likelier explanation is that either the drafter has been seduced by the rhetorical glory of redundancy or is copying verbiage prepared by someone else who was.

For another instance of the rhetorical urge and multiple prepositions, see this post about indemnify for, from, and against.

I suggest that you use only the verbs that you really need, and that you match each verb with the one preposition suited to it. If one preposition works with more than one verb, so much the better.

Regarding which preposition to use with grants Acme all right [?] the widgets, I’d use to, and I wouldn’t lose much sleep over the choice.

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.