It’s Meaningless. Leave It In or Take It Out?

Today @solirvine tweeted this in my direction:

Absent other considerations, you take out that which is meaningless, for two reasons.

First, if a contract contains enough that is meaningless, the meaningless element will add a meaningful number of useless words and waste a meaningful amount of time.

And second, it’s amazing how that which is meaningless can unexpectedly be given meaning, perhaps as a result of the widespread delusion that one must attribute meaning to every word in a contract.

Two examples of the latter phenomenon come to mind. There’s this 2015 post about a court that managed to attribute meaning to the meaningless “throat-clearing” that is agrees that. And there’s this 2014 post about how a court attributed significance to use of may to mean might in a restrictive relative clause—a classic instance of redundancy.

So eliminating that which is meaningless can spare you a whole bunch of trouble.

I refer above to “other considerations.” The only such considerations I can think of is when the other party is represented by a drone who has no authority to change anything in their sacred template. In that context, you might have to live with that which is meaningless.

But my days of doing deals are a distant memory. I welcome your thoughts.

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.